The Derry man who helped build America

Charles with his wife, Josephine, and 11 of his children. [22-06-12 SML 7]
Charles with his wife, Josephine, and 11 of his children. [22-06-12 SML 7]
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The Derry man who built one of the world’s most famous sports arenas was “fiercely proud” of his Irish roots, his great grandson has told the ‘Journal’.

Charles Logue, who was born in 1858, left Derry in the early 1880s to begin a new life in the United States.

A memorial wall at Fenway Park includes a brick commemorating Charles Logue. [22-06-12 SML 2]

A memorial wall at Fenway Park includes a brick commemorating Charles Logue. [22-06-12 SML 2]

Within a few short years, he’d built up one of the top building firms in Boston and was the man behind some of the city’s premier construction projects - including Fenway Park, home of baseball’s Boston Red Sox.

Jim Logue - himself a leading light in Boston business circles - says he’s very protective of his great grandfather’s legacy.

Jim, who runs a successful engineering company in the town of Hingham, just south of Boston, says his family has always recollected stories about their famous ancestor and these have been passed down from generation to generation.

“My father talked about Charles all the time,” says Jim. “It is the passion my father had for his grandfather that has driven me to protect the legacy of Charles Logue.”

Charles Logue was an influential man in Boston as this newspaper report suggests. [22-06-12 SML 8]

Charles Logue was an influential man in Boston as this newspaper report suggests. [22-06-12 SML 8]

Jim says both Charles and his wife, Josephine (nee Wilkins) - who married in Derry’s St Eugene’s Cathedral in April 1881 - were active players in Boston’s Irish community.

“Though Charles and Josephine never returned to Ireland, his Irish roots were clearly passed down to their children and my father’s family,” says Jim.

“Alot of them returned to Ireland in later years including quite a contingent who travelled to the Boston College-Notre Dame football game in Dublin in the late 1980s.

“I, myself, have been to Derry just once - in July 2007 for three days. It took me four trips to Ireland to finally make it to Derry. I went there to walk the ground that Charles Logue walked.

“I found the old city and its history very interesting. It is like Boston in many ways.

“Every time I go to Ireland and people hear my surname, they say, ‘you’re from Derry’. Funnily enough, I’d been looking for a particular pair of shoes in Boston but could find them nowhere. I found them in Derry. I hope to return some day.”

Not long after his arrival in the USA, Charles Logue gained a reputation as a skilled carpenter and ambitious young man, eventually setting up his own company, the Charles Logue Building Company, in 1890.

His timing was perfect. The Boston Irish had finally begun to wrestle control of the city from the recalcitrant Yankees with the election of Hugh O’Brien, Boston’s first ‘Irish’ mayor, in 1884.

According to Boston historian Dennis Ryan, Charles Logue became a major contractor in the Irish community, building the Boston College campus as well as churches and schools for the city’s Archdiocese.

Mayor Patrick Collins appointed the Derry man to the Schoolhouse Committee in 1904, citing the need for a practical builder, and Mayor John ‘Honey Fitz’ Fitzgerald - President John F. Kennedy’s colourful grandfather - relied on Logue to build a “busier, better Boston”.

In fact, the Derry man was hailed as being “bigger and better and busier” than Fitzgerald himself.

One Boston newspaper - notorious for its anti-Fitzgerald views - once said of Logue: “He is a practical man, a man of honesty and a man of intelligence... He works for the best interest of the city of Boston... He is the Mayor’s best appointment.”

According to Jim Logue, Charles’ legacy has, in recent years, taken on a life of its own.

“Most of Charles Logue’s legacy has been kept pretty much within the family,” he says. “There used to be an elementary school in Boston named the ‘Charles Logue School’. It closed a few years ago. Six years ago, however, we decided to use Charles’ image and his links to Fenway Park on the homepage of our company website. It wasn’t long before the Boston Irish Tourism group picked up on this which then led to several magazine articles and a stop on Boston’s official Irish Heritage Trail.

“Interest has continued and peaked this year on the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park with newspaper articles and TV coverage. It seems everybody now knows who Charles Logue is.”

Fenway Park, of course, has become Charles Logue’s enduring landmark.

Ground was broken for the park in September 1911 and the stadium was finished the following spring - a considerable achievement given the harsh New England winters.

The official opening took place on April 20, 1912. The Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders - later known as the Yankees - in front of 27,000 fans.

It’s reported that the event would have made front page news had it not been for the sinking of the Titanic just days before.

Today, the legacy of Charles Logue remains intact. Indeed, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino has a framed photograph of Logue in his office, for “a little inspiration”.

Charles remained president of his company until his death in 1919. His son, A. Emmett Logue, and grandson, A. Emmet Logue Jnr., ran the company until 1972. Great grandson Jim Logue started Logue Engineering in 1975 and his son, Kevin, is now the fifth generation of Logues in the family business.

Ironically, Charles Logue died suddenly while inspecting repair work on a Boston building.

At his funeral, the father of thirteen was described as a man “faithful to his highest impulses and loyal to his fine ideals”.

Cardinal William O’Connell, who provided the eulogy at the funeral, hailed Charles as a “man beloved by everybody who knew him.”

Jim says keeping his great grandfather’s name alive has been “quite a pleasure for me.”

“When I was a kid, people would say, ‘So your great-grandfather built Fenway Park?’ And I’d say, Yes, he did’. I’m immensely proud of Charles Logue. I think Derry should be, too.”