Historic Building of the Week: Revisiting Seaside Park and the Roundy Grandstand

A baseball team in front of the grandstand c. 1920. Photo by Marblehead Historical Commission

I did a lot of driving in Marblehead this summer — in and out and in and out of town. I kept driving past this baseball field, and there was this structure in the back, and — I will be honest — I had no idea what it was. I played softball for seven or so years, but we did not have anything like that on our fields. 

You might have figured out by now that I am talking about the Roundy Grandstand at Seaside Park. I hope that you, reader, will indulge me as I share with you what I learned while trying to satisfy my own curiosity.

Before we can talk about the grandstand, we must talk about Seaside Park. Efforts to create it began in 1887, when Marbleheaders wanted a fourth public park. After a failed attempt to acquire the land for a park in 1887, 14 to 15 acres along the coastline were at last appropriated to be a park in 1895. Around the same time, both baseball and football were taking hold in America’s consciousness.

The first annual report of the Parks Commissioners in 1902 described the plan for Seaside Park, reading, “We think that by doing a little each year, it can be made as fine a park as we have. The baseball diamond would become Marblehead’s first.” After numerous investments and projects, in 1913, the town proudly boasted a “modern and up-to-date” park. 

Football came to Seaside Park on Thanksgiving Day, 1913. Marblehead faced off against Swampscott with “thousands” in attendance. Baseball seems to have been played since the park was built, with various additions enhancing the field, like benches, bleachers, and trees. 

The addition that caught my attention was the grandstand. At the request of the Massachusetts Athletic Association (MAA), the town built the grandstand to house spectators at games. By 1917, the structure had been built and painted. Underneath the grandstand were bathrooms and a tool room. As a result of the new facility, the MAA made Seaside Park its new home, attracting players, fans and even President Calvin Coolidge and Lucile Ball.

Throughout the mid-century, more additions were built at Seaside Park and the grandstand underwent updates. In the 1930s, it was enclosed to create locker rooms, an electric scoreboard was erected in 1946, and in 1949, portable lights allowed for night games. 

However, by the 1980s, less attention was paid to the grandstand and it fell into disrepair. In the late ’80s or early 1990, renovations were estimated between $28,000 to $30,000. With volunteers’ fundraising of $12,000 and hard work from the North Shore Regional Vocational School, the grandstand was brought back to life. 

After the renovations were completed, the grandstand was named the Elliott Roundy Grandstand. Roundy was a descendant of a pre-Revolution Marblehead family and a “power-hitting first baseman” for the Marblehead Headers in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to coaching high school sports, Roundy also led the Marblehead Yachtsmen, a baseball team, to four regular season titles and one playoff championship between 1977 and 1994. 

It might be too cold to go enjoy America’s favorite pastime right now, but at least when I drive by Seaside Park and the Roundy Grandstand, I will know a little more than I knew this summer.