The Magrath Funeral Home on Chelsea Street is the oldest family owned funeral home in East Boston that spans four generations of the Magrath family.
Seeing a need to service the grieving public during a time of loss Frederick A. Magrath founded his funeral home inside a storefront in Maverick Square in 1910.
Magrath’s business was successful, especially among the neighborhood’s large Irish, Scadanvian, Nova Scotian and New Foundlander population living here at the time.
With business growing Magrath decided to move his funeral home business in 1947 to a larger storefront at the old Bethel Church at 54 Meridian St,. across from the police station.
It was at this site, according to Magrath’s great great-granddaughter Dayle Magrath Vecchione, that Eastie’s first true Funeral Home was founded.
“It became the first funeral home in East Boston to hold wakes within the funeral home,” said Vecchione.
Vecchino said wakes and visiting hours in the early 20th century would last for days and would typically be held inside the deceased’s family home. Having a wake outside the home was a foreign concept to many in Eastie at the time. However, many realized the new business model relieved much of the stress put on a family at a time of such need so Magrath’s business flourished.
However, in 1959 that building, along with other homes and businesses on the street, were taken by eminent domain to make room for the Callahan Tunnel and the funeral home had to move for a third time in a half century.
The third location of the Magrath Funeral Home became perhaps its most recognizable building. The large single story white concrete building at 325 Chelsea St. just before Day Square became Magrath’s longest residency in the neighborhood.
It was in this building that the Magrath family served the Eastie community for six decades.
“Back then there was a saying, “If you were Italian you went to Rapino’s or Vazza’s and if you were Irish you came to Magraths,” said Vecchione laughing. “But the truth is we served the entire community. I was just going through some of our old books and there were as many Italian names as there were Irish.”
Vecchione said Magrath’s was one of only a few funeral homes in the area that took on Protestant funerals because of the relationship her great-great-grandfather forged with the areas Protestant Irish. Nova Scotian and New Foundlander population years and years ago.
It was during this era the Magrath family saw more and more funeral homes being taken over by distant, bottom-line corporations. The Magrath family decided not to sell out and remained a family run business.
Frederick A. in 1935, who was then succeeded by his son Frederick J. Magrath Jr. Upon Frederick J.’s death in 1986 his children, Dayle, Brian (1953-2007) and Mark, became the fourth generation to carry on the tradition as Eastie’s oldest family owned and operated funeral home.
However, like the change Frederick A. saw in the early 1900s of the move from wakes in a family residence to funeral homes, Vecchione and her brother saw a change recently.
“When we went into 325 Chelsea St.location, funerals use to last two to three days,” said Vecchione. “Often times there was an overlap with other wakes and funerals. But over the years customs have changed and a lot of wakes and funerals are done in one or two days.”
Seeing no need to maintain a 16,000 square-foot facility the Magrath Funeral Home recently made another move.
However, this move is a lot closer and just across Chelsea Street from its old location.
Magrath’s new location at 336 Chelsea St. occupies the first floor of a six unit condo development that was recently built.
“We just didn’t need all that space across the street anymore,” said Vecchione. “This is a nice, brand new facility. It’s all compliant with ADA requirements. It’s modern and a space that helps us keep up with the times. We want to keep the family tradition going as the oldest family-owned funeral home in East Boston.”