Pilgrim Lanes Saved Remnants of Elite But Medical Building Replaces All

Pilgrim Lanes, Primrose Street, will soon be replaced by a medical office building.

Elite Bowling was nestled tightly in a block between Sears and Al's Pizza on Water Street before urban renewal.

Elite Bowling was nestled tightly in a block between Sears and Al's Pizza on Water Street before urban renewal. (Photograph courtesy of David Goudsward.)

When the wrecking ball was set to roll down Water Street in 1967, the last bowling ball was gliding down the alley at Elite Bowling Lanes.

It was the end of an era for bowling within what became the Pentucket Urban Renewal District, but it wasn’t the end of Elite’s pinsetting equipment. That moved up to Pilgrim Lanes, 600 Primrose St., when Silvio Angelotti opened the doors of his new business. After surviving downtown demolition, however, what remains of Elite—pronounced by locals as “E-Lite”—will come down when Newburyport-based Anna Jaques Hospital builds a new medical building on the property.

“We love working at the lanes every day. We had a good run. But the time has come. We didn’t have the influx of people,” said Dale R. Angelotti, who now owns Pilgrim Lanes with his siblings Gary and Diana. “Bowling was in its heydays in 80s, 90s, but people are moving away from that,” he explained. His wife, Maria, added, “Parents now have to pay for school sports. It’s too much for families to afford.”

A recent article in Bloomberg Business agrees “The number of Americans who bowled increased 10 percent from 1980 to 1993,” but author Patrick Clark, noted, “those who belonged to leagues declined 40 percent.” Leagues kept bowling alleys busy week after week, but individual bowling enthusiasts were not as regular.

Angelotti told WHAV it wasn’t the family’s intention to close the lanes when it listed three to four acres of land behind it for sale. They had hoped money from the sale might bolster the sagging fortunes of the business. However, Anna Jaques offered to buy the entire site.

“It was not our first choice. We would rather sell it to someone to keep bowling,” Angelotti said. The sale to the hospital is expected to close this spring, subject to the usual environmental tests.

Bowling became one of America’s favorite pastimes beginning in the middle of the 20th century. So much so, in fact, President Harry S. Truman opened the first White House bowling alley in 1947. The American Society of Planning Officials declared in 1958, “The bowling alley is fast becoming one of the most important — if not the most important — local center of participant sport and recreation.” By 1965, many different bowling establishments had come and gone in Haverhill. Besides Elite at 22 Water St., the popular ones then included Academy Lanes, 725 South South Main St.; Plaza Lanes, Riverside Avenue; and Haverhill City Bowling Lanes, 54 Merrimack St. There were also many private lanes within clubs.

10 thoughts on “Pilgrim Lanes Saved Remnants of Elite But Medical Building Replaces All

  1. Candlepin bowling IS New England. Or, should I say, WAS New England? A tearful goodbye to another “lucky lanes”, all of which are destined to join typewriters, pinball machines, peep shows, and trolley rides as vestiges of a simpler time, when people looked to one another for a smile, or a laugh, or the friendly competition of orbs upon waxed maple lanes. No longer can we even go to the amusement park for an easy ride on a merry-go-round, as Santa’s Land, Benson’s Animal Farm, Paragon Park, Whalom Park, Riverside Park, and on and on–they’re all gone.

    Strive for the simple life, and one will never be wanting.

  2. This center has been there for many year’s. This is a very sad day for the owners and patrons of Pilgrim lanes. I have know all of them for many year’s, great people, great friends, and a great place to bowl/ shoot pool/ or enjoy the games. They have tried many different venues to stay open, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Good luck in future plans, wishing you the best.

  3. Pilgrim Lanes will always hold wonderful Memories for me, I meet my Husband there, I was Married there, bowled with my son there, brought my grandsons there and bowled in leagues there, enjoyed fun party’s there I could go on and on. I have enjoyed having a few drinks there at there pub that they put in five years ago. This is a Candlepin house not Ten pin and they are two very different games. I will always have fond Memories and it makes me so very sad that they have to close there doors. I know how hard this family business has tried everything to keep it going but no longer can.

  4. i remember going bowling there when I was a kid. I had so much fun.so sad that a place that brought so much happiness and fun to so many family’s and made new friends has to close down

  5. What they should do is make it big ball viwling, hold tournaments and put a bar in there like all the other places that are booming. The closest one around here is in Lowell and it’s always busy.

  6. This is horrible. What a sad thing that such a staple will be closed. Although I understand that sports are becoming expensive, they are also not a family event. Bowling at pilgrim lanes with my cousins and family is a memory that I will cherish forever. It was a place that I went with my family and laughed until we cried, shared memories and built friendships. I wish that there was some other way to keep this nostalgic piece of history around and open for many more years.

  7. This is an incredibly sad event. A great and historical candlepin bowling establishment not just closing but being completely wiped off the map.