The Blue Dragon Tea Room – History Mystery, January 2016

January 15, 2016 – Question

Do these cold winter days make you want to sit down with a hot cup of tea?  If so, you are in good company! Wellesley has been home to many tea rooms over the years, from stand-alone tea shops, to restaurants, to on-campus college establishments. In the 1920s, Wellesley tea shops often had whimsical names including The Bird Cage, The Blue Dragon, The Green Bough and The Oriole. The picture above depicts one of these creatively named tea rooms located in Wellesley Square– can you guess which one it is? Return on January 29th for the answer.

January 29, 2016 – Answer

The business pictured above is The Blue Dragon Tea Room, which was located at 60 Central Street in Wellesley between 1922 and 1935. True to its name, the tea room featured blue tables and chairs along with white china dishes printed with blue dragons. An article from The Townsman in 1922 noted that The Blue Dragon could accommodate over 100 guests in two dining rooms on the first floor and provided two guest bedrooms on the second floor.  An ad for The Blue Dragon in the Wellesley Historical Society collection notes that it was open daily and served luncheon, dinner and a la carte in addition to tea.   Run by Miss Snow and Mrs. Daniels, two former Wellesley College heads of houses, The Blue Dragon hoped to be popular with “college guests, automobile parties and summer visitors” (The Townsman 4/4/1922, page 1).

Tea rooms were immensely popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century and were primarily run by women for women patrons.  The Blue Dragon faced fierce competition during the tea room craze in the 1920s and a search of The Townsman from 1922 found 11 tea rooms in Wellesley, not including the numerous church, club, and private teas noted in the society pages.  With the economic downturn of the Great Depression, there were far fewer tea rooms in Wellesley and by 1935 the Wellesley Inn and the Blue Dragon were the only tea rooms mentioned in The Townsman.

The Blue Dragon closed its doors in 1935; the building was torn down and a new business block with 3 stores was erected on the site in 1936. Shoppers could now choose from a variety of stores including Touraine’s women’s wear, a tailor and a hardware shop. Although the stores and shops on Central Street have changed over the years, some things haven’t changed that much – a Starbucks Coffee shop is now located approximately where The Blue Dragon Tea Room once offered a warm drink on a cold day!

Kathleen Fahey, Curator