Douglas Farrington, Last Owner of Norumbega Park and Totem Pole Ballroom at 78
Douglas F. Farrington of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire and formerly of Chestnut Hill has died after a brief illness at 78.
Born in Newton, MA on June 16, 1925, he was a son of Robert and Dorothy (Faunce) Farrington. He attended the Dexter School in Brookline, Mass. and the Fay School in Southborough, MA. He also attended the Middlesex School in Concord, MA. Following his junior year there he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre during World War II on the USS Haraden (DD585). Participating in the invasions of the Marshall and Marianas Islands and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the ship was badly damaged by a Kamikaze attack. As sonarman, Mr. Farrington narrowly survived the attack when the crippled plane (and its 500lb bomb) missed hitting the bridge and exploded amidships. After repairs, the ship returned to battle and later received a total of Five Battle Stars for wartime service.
Following his years in the Navy, Mr. Farrington returned to Boston and earned a business degree in 1950 from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. He founded a real estate investment company, the D.F. Farrington Co. Inc. that in 1956 purchased the famous Auburndale landmark Norumbega Park and Totem Pole Ballroom.
First opened in 1897 on the Charles River (where the Marriott 128 Hotel now stands), Norumbega Park featured hundreds of canoes, an enormous zoo, a carousel, penny arcade and the largest outdoor theatre in New England. The Park was an immediate success, attracting thousands of patrons each season. In 1930, as Norumbega Park was expanded to included major amusement park rides, the theatre was converted into the Totem Pole Ballroom, quickly becoming New England’s top Swing venue. Virtually every famous Big Band in the country appeared at the Totem Pole, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Glenn Miller Orchestra (led by Ray McKinley) and Lawrence Welk. Solo acts included Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore.
By the mid fifties when the Age of Swing came to a close, Mr. Farrington was forced to change with the times. Popular vocal acts such as the Four Lads gave way to early 60’s folk acts such as the Brothers Four, Limelighters, Kingston Trio, New Christy Minstrels and Peter, Paul & Mary. By this time, real estate developers were interested in the land and Norumbega Park/Totem Pole Ballroom was sold and closed in 1964.
Mr. Farrington’s company went on to own property in Boston’s financial district (most notably 84 and 50 State Street) and also owned and operated the Glen Ellen Country Club in Millis up until 1974.
Mr. Farrington was also former governor of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants and secretary of the Society of Colonial Wars. An enthusiastic golfer, he could be seen almost daily during the season in his cart at the Profile Golf Club in Franconia, NH. He was also an avid reader, and, above all, a devoted grandfather taking great joy in each of his grandchildren.
Besides his wife Veronica (Pease), he leaves four children, Lee F. Farrington of Charlestown, Roger D. Farrington of Jamaica Plain, Edward P. Farrington of Sugar Hill and Jennifer F. Jhaveri of Newhall, Calif.; four grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
After a private interment in Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, a memorial service will be held in June at Sugar Hill.