5 Years Later: Memories of the Mill Hill Club

Former Mill Hill djs Paul Haydon and Danny Walsh show off bricks from the old club.

A senior care facility currently stands on the site of the famous Mill Hill Club on Route 28 in West Yarmouth. But while that property’s newest building likely serves the community better than its nightclubbing predecessor, many memories of the place still tenderly reach into the hearts of Cape Cod’s Boomer and Gen-X populations.

Before it was closed permanently in 2008, the Mill Hill Club experienced a steady period of decline in the 1990s, but was best known for its heyday in the 70s and 80s.

The generations which flocked to the club then were different from those in the 50s and 60s: the former brought a completely new vibe to the place, turning it from an upscale joint into a sometimes-rowdy and always-kitschy place for the youth to mingle and drink with the 18+ age limit of the time.

Sport jackets were traded for leather and, later, no-jackets; finely-dressed tables were swapped with inflatable mud-wrestling pools. DJ Sullivan and Gordie Milne mastered the Saturday night ceremonies, which sometimes packed in as many as 2,000 people.

But the establishment represented much more than dank mechanical bull nights and two-for-one cocktails.

The Mill Hill Club daringly welcomed an impressive variety of music to Cape Cod.

Famous acts that played there include Johnathan Edwards, B.B. King, Gary Lewis and His Playboys, The Grassroots, and James Taylor’s siblings Kate, Alex, Livingston and Hugh.
The club also was responsible for bringing New Wave music to the region during the 80s. The Neighborhood and Lou Miami gigged there regularly.

But it was the local names, like Cape Cod punks The Freeze, which instituted a deep sense of camaraderie with the Club’s patrons.

Most importantly, The Mill Hill Club created memories for youngsters who later associated them with Cape Cod, and decided to settle here full time. The Mill Hill, like countless other Cape Cod landmarks and institutions, was a vehicle for the memory-making which acts a retaining device for young people. If there’s one element of need locals agree on, it is keeping a diverse age range of families in the area, and now we have one less landmark to attract them with.

All in all, it was necessary for the building to be torn down in 2014. Since closing six years prior, the decaying structure stood to be a public nuisance as it crumbled.

In 2012, Mayflower Place unveiled plans for the redevelopment of the site as a 75-bed Memory Care facility in conjunction with a 50-unit expansion of their Independent Living facility located on Buck Island Road.

The project is a key element in Yarmouth’s ongoing efforts to revitalize Route 28. Many of the hundred-plus people who showed up to see the old Club’s destruction remarked that it was for the better.

But as many have since pointed out, there is some cruel irony that this place, chock full of memories, be replaced with…a memory care facility.

The rise and fall of the Mill Hill Club is representative of a similar lifespan of other Cape Cod clubs and restaurants, like the Christopher Ryder House in Chatham, the Compass Lounge in Yarmouth, Jason’s in Dennis, Guido Murphy’s in Hyannis and many others. Many wonder if the rise of the Digital Age has made more physical pastimes, like riding a mechanical bull in the back of a hometown club, obsolete.

No; the current generation has its SUP Yoga, its selfie-stick beach bonfires; its own veritable paths of recreation.

But for those who had a part in the Mill Hill legacy, they’ll have to go elsewhere to make new memories together.

By Adam Forziati

Comments

  1. Paul Leidenfrost says

    I have pictures of still life abandonedment of inside the Mill Hill months before it was torn down. My Urban Exploration photography is on Flickr.

  2. Anthony L Jarek-Glidden says

    remembering Jack who ran the MHC and then Jack’s Outback, A great guy

  3. Karla Bergman says

    disco disco disco!!! After the mill hill it was off to Rascal’s!! Great memories..

  4. Rascals? I remember going there in the ‘80’s’!

  5. Dick Doherty and his band were great!!! Met my husband at the Mill Hill Club in 1971. Strange that he passed away in 2014, the same year they tore it down…

  6. Scott Perkins says

    I never went to the Mill Hill but went to Rascals, Guido Murphys and T Rossi’s about 1000 times each. We would get our hands stamped at Guidos then go to Racals for the 90cent drafts then go back to Guidos then get last call shots at T Rossi’s. God I miss those days. I left the Cape in 1985 and have missed it every day since. Will get back for a happy hour at Trader Eds or Black Cat soon! #CapeNightlife

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