Above: The scene at 104 Duke St. after the building was taken down Friday, Dec. 10.
The building at 104 Duke Street, at the corner of Queen Street, came down midday Friday, after a firm push from the arm of a large excavator. The building creaked, things snapped and the bottom floor collapsed, leaving the top two stories sitting on the ground, seemingly intact, a bit like the house landing back on the ground in The Wizard of Oz.
Over the next two hours, A Macari Construction took care of what was still standing, pushing and chomping from the top until the whole of the nearly 100-year-old structure was in a heap on the ground.
A previous owner got permission to demolish the building back in July 2020, then decided to keep the building and rehab it, then changed his mind again, selling it with the demo permit still in place. The new owner, Touchdown Realty, has bought up several properties in town, including 319 Main Street, which will be condos, and two structures on Lion Street. In each of those cases, the buildings in question have been gutted but the exteriors have been saved. For 104 Duke, the plan is five townhouses facing Queen Street.
It’s the end of an era for everyone who grew up in EG in the mid-1900s when Tar Tar Ucci ran a small store on the bottom floor that was a gathering place and spot for essentials. Afterwards, some of the Ucci sisters opened a sandwich shop there popular with quahoggers and town workers, said Bruce Mastracchio, nephew of said sisters. With any luck, Bruce may have more to say on this subject.
The store is NO more! There are SO many memories and I will try to conjure up enough to tell you about a place that lives large in our minds. A place with a Legend for a proprietor, which served as a cobbler shop, then grocery store (and more), and then the best kept secret of an Italian sandwich shop. Tar Tar’s where we, who grew up there, had to go to, at least once a day. After school, after games, after quahaugging, after after. SO many memories. Just so many.
I will store them back in that recess of my mind where memories go to rest, and try to bring them out this weekend for the people who really loved Tar Tar, the Ucci family, the store, the corner.
And don’t forget the penny candy, the pizza strips, the meatball sandwiches.
The slot machines, card and crap tables under the floor.
The undercover agents taking Tar away for booking also along with his sister as the phone was in her name. My mom thinking it was the boys from Federal Hill as she beating on one of them telling Uncle Tar who was in his sixties to run fearing she would never see him again.
But he did appear at the then Kent County Court House on Main Street. Red Davis had set his furniture, soda crates out in front of his store on Main St so family and friends could watch this “harden” criminal handcuffed & shackled being lead into and out of the Court House. Where’s Spielberg when ya need him.
Oh, the wonderful memories I have of Tar Tar’s! My grandparent’s, the Moscatelli’s, lived on Marlborough Street and when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I would visit at least twice weekly and each time would cut through the Itlo-American Club and the Grange Shop lots and beat it to Tar Tar’s! First, I’d go behind the meat case and fill a bag of penney candy and choose from the case of individual icecreams. Next, I’d grab a Hostess Cupcake treat, and finally I’d ask for the meat or other groceries my grandmother would ask me to pick up…At the end of the counter near the register was the entry to the back room where the smell of sauce and meatballs permeated the store. I have the absolute fondest memories of Tar Tar’s and the Italian neighborhood in which it was situated! My brother still owns the original homestead, though back then, it was a veritable garden oasis, a huge double lot filled with vegetable gardens, grape vines, fruit trees & bushes, and, of course, my beloved grandmother’s rose garden! It saddens me that children now are so disconnected from the land and it’s bounty, not to mention, their neighbors…I have always greatly enjoyed Bruce Mastracchio’s writing’ s about this golden time in East Greenwich’s history!
I remember going with my dad to Tar Tar’s to buy pizza strips. Just two weeks ago, I was reminded of Tar Tar strips and so drive nearly 100 miles from my home in Connecticut to Calvito’s in Cranston to see if their version held up. I am happy to say the did. Thank you to Bruce’s family, and you Bruce for being a friend and influence on me.