Saving Mory's

The group rallying around Mory’s wants to keep its unique character while catering to the needs of today’s Yale students, faculty and staff—and even the New Haven community as a whole.

 

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As Getman stares at the Whiffenpoofs’ table, he says, “We’ve got to get this place reopened for the centennial this fall,” a hint of panic at the passing time briefly crossing his otherwise impassive face.

The house at 306 York Street is where Mory’s has resided since 1912, but it is only the “newest” of the club’s locations. Mory’s origins are shrouded in the hazy mists of ancient undergraduate lore. As nearly as can be pieced together, the “concept” of Morys began on a pleasant afternoon when members of Yale’s crew team needed a place to slake their thirsts after a workout on New Haven Harbor. They stopped at a dingy alehouse on Wooster Street, an unpretentious but atmospheric place run by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Moriarty (thus, the unofficial nickname of “Mory’s”). Word quickly spread across campus that here was a place that happily and cheaply served undergraduates ale, Welsh rarebits and eggs on toast.

After Frank Moriarty died in 1876, Mrs. Moriarty took over and continued to run things until her death in 1885—but not before moving the bar to Temple Street (thus, the honorific “Temple Bar”). The next owner, Eddie Oakley, was killed by a New Haven trolley car in 1905—he may have been inebriated at the time—at which point the legendary Louis Linder took over operations, ushering in the golden age of Mory’s. Linder, a member of a singing society as well as an experienced restaurant manager, added music and cold beer, and expanded the menu. Various Yale singing groups were also given a regular venue at Mory’s.

One in particular, the Whiffenpoofs, was formed in February 1909, dedicated to “eating, drinking and good fellowship.”

When Linder’s health declined and the Temple Street area was threatened with a renewal project, some Mory’s regulars decided to take matters into their own hands. On Sept. 5, 1912, articles of association were drawn up and signed by 35 alumni, establishing The Mory’s Association Inc. Mory’s was now no longer a public bar open to anyone but a private corporation (without capital stock) open only to men with ties to Yale. The new association moved Mory’s to its current house at 306 York Street and reopened the Temple Bar here, dragging along as much of the old establishment as they could—including the windows, door casings, wainscoting, fireplace mantels, the front entrance, pictures and photographs, decorations, tables, and even Louis Linder himself, who was given a place to live in one of the upstairs rooms and the mostly ceremonial role as steward. Linder died in his sleep on Oct. 18, 1913, and—as the song has it—Mory’s is “the place where Louis dwells,” presumably for eternity. 

Getman recently met this reporter at the door of a shuttered Mory’s to shed some light on the dark situation. In addition to being president of the Mory’s Association, Getman is president of Soundview Capital (an investment firm) and first vice president of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. He’s a busy man, but Mory’s seems to be his highest priority as he shows his visitor around.

Mory’s smells exactly the way you might remember your own favorite college bar smelling—a bit of stale beer, a bit of mildew and a ton of history. The ground floor holds two small dining rooms and a main dining hall, the kitchen, some offices, a taproom, and a vaultlike closet where Mory’s cups are stored. The seating capacity downstairs is 100, and in its heyday, you did not get a table here unless you had a reservation.

After Linder died, the upstairs of the house was converted into several more rooms, including a library, separate kitchen serving area and five private dining areas, each named after the theme of the photographs and memorabilia on the wall (Captains’ Room, Governors’ Room, Presidents’ Room, etc.).  The Captains’ Room is filled with photographs of Yale’s various sports teams’ captains, while another upstairs room is devoted to Mory’s Honor Roll. An engraved placard lists all members who gave their lives for their country in World Wars I and II.

Next door is a room dedicated to Mory’s Cup recipients, whose names are engraved on the wall. Starting in 1927, it has been a Mory’s custom to annually award a cup to a member “for conspicuous service to Yale.” Among these honorees is John Frederick Baker (Class of 1909), who is credited with inventing the famous menu staple known as Baker’s soup, alleged to cure hangovers. Another is George H.W. Bush, whose iconic status at Mory’s is reinforced by his prominently displayed photograph, as the captain of Yale’s 1948 baseball team. Bush received his Mory’s Cup in this room on Dec. 14, 2008, just four days before Mory’s shut its doors. Getman presided over that ceremony, at which he told the former baseball star, “Mr. President, you’ve overcome a lot of obstacles, such as being a Phi Beta Deke and getting to the finals of the NCAA tournament by throwing left-handed and batting right-handed.”

Saving Mory's

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