On Route 28 in Yarmouth -- a Cape Cod thoroughfare lined with taffy shops and seafood-themed restaurants -- is a large hulk of a building long past its heyday that most everyone agrees needs to go away. But not so long ago, this eyesore was known as the Mill Hill Club. It was an entertainment venue, and back during the 1970s and ‘80s, the club was as good a reason to come to Cape Cod as the beaches. But this Tuesday morning, town officials and representatives from the business community began smashing at it with sledgehammers. And then the bulldozer took over. The Mill Club will soon make way for a housing complex, and its passing stirs memories for a generation of people who remember nothing but good times at the Mill Hill Club.
The Mill Hill Club holds fond memories for Cape Codders who were regulars during its heyday. Many of them, like Kerry Jason of Yarmouth, turned out on Tuesday morning to watch the building fall to the wrecking crew.
“It’s very sad, actually,” she said. “Yeah, I’m standin’ here lookin’ at it, and it’s crazy to think of all the times that we were here, and snuck in, and everybody was just here to meet another friend or just have fun. Even the parking lot afterwards was just as fun as it was inside all night.”
In the six years since its closing in 2008, weeds had all but obliterated the building along Route 28 in Yarmouth, and the Mill Hill slowly, painfully deteriorated into a haunted house version of its former self. During its heyday, the Mill Hill played host to national acts like B.B. King, Herb Reed and the Platters, and the Grass Roots, as well as many well-known local entertainers. It was a place that just seemed to have a special, intangible vibe.
“Yeah, there just won’t be anything like it again though. That’s for sure,” said Kerry Jason.
Just before eight o’clock in the morning, the crowd had swelled to around 100 people. They stood across the street from the cordoned-off building, drinking coffee, swapping stories, and sharing a kind of gallows humor about their former gathering spot, now silent and in ruins, with a huge yellow bulldozer standing by like an executioner.
Paul Hayden started as a Deejay at the Mill Hill Club in 1994.
“I have mixed feelings,” he said. “Good to see it come down, but it’s gonna leave a big hole in the landscape of Cape Cod.”
Don Florio of Yarmouth is a large, white-bearded man wearing a leather jacket. He says he has a lot of memories from the Mill Hill.
“Oh yeah…foggy ones,” he said with a laugh. “I came here in ’78, and this was the one. You’d see people standing in line all the way down there. And we’d sneak in through the kitchen.”
At about 8:05, a group of police and town officials walked across the street inside the chain-link fence, sledgehammers in hand. Linda Jean, Executive Director of the Yarmouth area Chamber of Commerce, wielded one of them. Wearing a white hard had, she took a whack at the brick by the front door – without much success.
Finally, one of the sledgehammers connected, and the old red brick started coming loose.
After the brief ceremony and a few photos, everyone was hustled back across the street, and the jaws of the huge wrecking crane swung down, taking the first bite out of the building’s roof.
Paul Hayden managed to snag one of the bricks torn loose by those sledgehammers. He held it up like a cherished trophy.
“Call it my life at the Mill Hill,” he said with a tone of bittersweetness.
Across the street from the demolition site, a local restaurant hosted a buffet for people to share their memories of the club. Charlie Weatherbee from Yarmouth surveyed the demolition from the restaurant’s front steps. He currently runs the Black Sheep Bar and Grille in Yarmouthport, but worked at the Mill Hill from 1968 to 1987.
“I see a lotta the people over in the Black Sheep now – our older clientele – ‘Oh, yeah, we went to the Mill Hill, we met there.’ It was the place to go. It was the place to be. There’s some pictures inside from 1937 that we found. It was called the Mill Hill Tavern back then, Weatherbee said.”
The site will soon be revitalized as an assisted living facility. And while everyone agrees that the old nightspot needed to be torn down, the Mill Hill Club will live on as a fond memory for its former patrons and employees. The people looking on in the grey drizzle seem like family…gathering one last time to bid farewell to a special place that had one heck of a good run.