On a recent afternoon, Eagle-Tribune reporter Mike LaBella was writing a story involving the newly renovated flood wall along the Merrimack River.

He paused to ask, "Why do they always say "It is behind the Tap?''

The popular Tap restaurant is on Washington Street, but the back of the restaurant is on the waterfront.

Someone replied to Mike, "Because it is a landmark." That brought up the definition of "landmark" and what we have in that respect.

A landmark is an easily identified, widely known place or building, helpful when giving directions.

Haverhill has many such places, even though they appear and disappear with the years. Today's landmarks include the infamous Woolworth Building at White's Corner, the two steeples in Monument Square and the one next to Bradford Common, City Hall, Walnut Square School, and bodies of water like Kenoza Lake and Plug Pond.

Ones that no longer exist include Tilton's Tower atop Silver Hill. When the tower existed, it was visible for miles, and from it the ocean and the mountains could be seen.

Obviously, landmarks can appear and disappear.

I have told before about the man who got lost driving through a rural area. He stopped to ask a man how to get to the nearest big city and was told, "Stay on this road for a while and turn left where the red barn used to be."

Other downtown landmarks include the two white factories on Essex Street, the Lang and Burgess buildings which became known as the Hamel buildings because they housed the Hamel Leather business.

Looking back, the story of the Tap emerges as one of work and perseverance.

Several prominent residents put a lot of sweat equity into rebuilding and modernizing the bar and dining area, set up a new menu and hired people like the well-known Toula Petrou as hostess to regain high status in the community.

Now it is owned by John Fahimian, who has hired people to bring the Tap even more up to date and make sure it retains its place as a restaurant and bar, with the capacity to create its own kinds of beer, with Haverhill names, and many other amenities.

So, briefly, that is how the Tap became and remains a landmark in the busy and growing historic district of Washington Street for new generations.

P.S. The street itself has become a landmark — Haverhill's new restaurant row with a bustling nightlife.

Barney Gallagher has covered Haverhill since 1936.

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