The Birth of a Chelmsford Landmark

Over 80 years ago, a blacksmith at Lowell’s Boott Mills wanted a career change.  He saved his money, bought a dairy farm on Stevens Street, and a plot of swampy land no one wanted not too far away in Chelmsford.  He started his dairy farm, and used his revenues to cart in tons of dirt from Drum Hill.  Eventually, he silenced his naysayers and started construction on that lonely plot of land.  And he built a roadside stand where he sold ice cream made from the milk his dairy cows produced.

It was a wild success.

He knew a little bit about marketing too.  He had a giant milk bottle made, in two pieces, and hired a team of men to hoist it atop his ice cream stand.  It became an attraction on Chelmsford’s road into Lowell, and he put the letters of his last name on it.  People came just to see the giant milk bottle, and, before long, he was selling 30 flavors of ice cream, at a dime a cone.

He kept that ice cream stand for 27 years.

Kydds Ice Cream Stand 1934
Photo Credit: Jessie’s Place via Chelmsford Public Library’s Flickr Photostream

At some point a few years in, he added a back window and started serving sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers.  Soon, the line to buy hot foods at his stand was just as long as the lines to buy his ice cream.  He built a diner next door, and put his name on that too.

Screenshot 2016-12-04 18.44.51.png

During the 1930s, and into the war years, and even for a bit after, he ran Kydd’s Ice Cream and Kydd’s Diner on Chelmsford Street.  But, ice cream was his true passion, and he sold the diner to the Gefteas and Burliss families in 1947.

He kept selling ice cream.

John Kydd sold ice cream from his ice cream stand right up into the 1960s, when he finally sold it, in 1961, to the same families that bought his diner.

And that ice cream stand, with its iconic bottle, and the neighboring diner, with its iconic neon sign, stayed there, on Chelmsford Street, through the construction of 495, and the Chelmsford Mall down the way, and watched their neighbors come and go, until finally, the ice cream stand was closed, and demolished in 1998.

Rumor has it that that giant milk bottle survives to this day in an undisclosed location in town.

And the restaurant held on even longer, into the Yelp era, where you can still read reviews for it even today.  But, the restaurant is gone too, since 2008, when it closed after its 70-year run.  It’s still remembered today, though not as Kydd’s, which was its first name.

Kydds Diner Now Skips 2nd Part Added 2 doors 1941
Photo Credit: Jessie’s Place via Chelmsford Public Library’s Flickr Photostream

Chelmsford fondly remembers that little ice cream stand and restaurant, that no one thought would ever get built, on that swampy lot no one wanted, as — none other than Skip’s.

It’s now part of Chelmsford’s lore.

They did have the best banana fritters going.

Photo Credit:  Yelp User Julia P, on 6/7/2008

13 thoughts on “The Birth of a Chelmsford Landmark

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article about Kydd’s and Skip’s. My brother-in-law was Malcolm Kydd, grandson to John. Kydd’s and Skip’s were the’ to go’ places in the 50’s and 60’s. Every game or event that took place in Chelmsford always ended with everyone meeting there. My husband worked at Kydd’s during his high school years. I printed out the article for my nieces and my sister.


  2. This is an amazing story. It is so accurate. I used to ride my horse from Carlisle to get ice cream at Kydd’s Ice Cream Stand. Then, lo and behold, I ended up marrying one of the scoopers, Bob Kydd. He would be thrilled with this article. We met at the Ice Cream Stand in 1950 and got married in 1955 when he returned from Korea. We had 61 wonderful years together. He enjoyed sharing his stories of working at his Grandfather Kydd’s dairy on Stevens Street when the milk wagon was horse drawn. He would tell how the horses knew the routes with no guidance from the drivers. Thank you so much for resurrecting this treasured story from the past.

  3. Great article, I Have nice memories of Doug Kyd setting up breakfast for us in the 60’s .Thanks for keeping the history alive.
    George M. Burliss
    Former Co Owner of Skip’s Restaurant.

  4. Wow, midway through your post I started wondering how I never I heard of this “Kydd’s.” I moved to town in 1980, and my memories are of Skip’s. Thanks for sharing the backstory.

  5. I Loved reading this story. Doug Kydd was my grandfather and I remember playing around the old dairy on Stevens St. thanks for posting.

  6. Another relative here. My twin Sue and I used to love watching the milk plant machinery and visiting the room where Rudy made the ice cream; he’d let us sample the unfrozen custard! Sometimes we rode with Grandpa in his pickup to nearby farms to pick up the milk in those large metal canisters.

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