Header:Philadelphia History

Old-Time Drinking Places in Philadelphia


Back in the early eighties tippling among men of prominence was comparatively common. Moderate drinking was not frowned upon, as later it came to be. Men in all walks of life indulged to some extent, and the saloon was looked upon a s a kind of unofficial club, where kindred spirits were wont to meet and pass an hour or two in genial fellowship.

Each of the drinking places of that day had it own individual clientele. One learned instinctively to know at which one of the several taverns one might find certain well-known men, as loyal in their preferences in this respect as diners of the present day are to fixed places for eating. The lawyers, one learned to look for, at Louis Lesieur's. Lesieur was a Frenchman who kept a quiet, very respectably-conducted and unassuming place at the southeast corner of seventh ad Sansom Streets. he had the reputation of keeping excellent cognac. And his wines, sherries, madeiras, burgundies and sauternes were rated highly by local connoisseurs.

At Lesieur's just after the adjournment for the day of the Courts, then at Sixth and Chestnut Streets, one could be sure of meeting the celebrities of the local bar, such men at Colonel William B. Mann, Lewis C. Cassidy, "Chris" Kneas, James H. Heverin, "Joe" Bonham, "Ned" Perkins, John McKinley, "Max" Stevenson, John H. Fow, "Mat" Dittman and a host of others of the class known as "gentlemen drinkers;" men who were keen judges of good liquor and who indulged temperately and with discretion. Many a case involving big stakes, was compromised at French Louis' over a round or two of cognac or a special bottle of burgundy.

The Political element one looked for at Steve Walker's, on Fifth Street below Market. Walker's, back in the eighties, was a local institution. It was not the garish, gaudy thing that the saloon of a later era come to be, there was no bar. A huge elaborately-carved sideboard held the decanters. the habitués of the place seated themselves on brandy casks, or on wine cases. Walker served the tipples, expensively garbed, and wearing a silk hat. "Bill" Douglass, George Fairman, Theodore F. ("Plunger") Walton, and men of that class were among Walker's regular patrons.

At the ale vaults of Dick Penistan, on Chestnut Street below Fifth, one met the theatrical and sporting element. Penistan had been an actor, and his saloon attracted men of the stage, together with a goodly sprinkling of men about town. The piece de resistance at Penistan's was old English ale. On Sixth Street, just above Sansom, was a little saloon, kept by a Democratic politician of some prominence in those days-one "Sam" Josephs. Josephs was a pudgy little man who affected a white plug hat. His place was the pet rendezvous for aspiring Democrats and for Court hangers-on.

Canfield's, "The Cabinet," on Seventh street above Chestnut, famed for many years for its collection of framed cartoons of public men, on the other hand was the favorite resort for republican politicians of the smaller calibre and for the newspapermen of that day. The first of local drinking places to serve imported beers, such as Hofbrau, Muenchener, Wurzburger and the like. Every year in the fall there would be a large display of game in front of Lauber's, consisting of bear, moose, buffalo, deer, the various species of duck, geese, swan and birds and fish in general. this would lure the gunner and the angler.

"Bob" Steel's, subsequently a landmark for many years at Broad and Chestnut Streets, was then located on the north side of Chestnut Street, just west of Eighth. His place was by long odds the most elaborately fitted drinking place of the town and was rated a show place of some note. Steel's, Finelli's and Dooner's were among the exclusive drinking resorts of the early eighties. Finelli had two places, one on Tenth Street above Chestnut, and another on Chestnut east side of Broad. At Peter Dooner's one met the epicure element, les bon vivants of the town. Tom Green created quite a stir a few years later by fitting up, at Green's Hotel, Eighth and Chestnut Streets, a, for that day, very showy barroom. One of its novel features was a ceiling effect suggestive of the Arctic, with tapering icicles and vistas of shimmering snow and frost.

At just about this time "Andy" Moore, a millionaire distiller, remodeled the barroom of the old Girard House, at Ninth and Chestnut Streets, on a scale of garish magnificence that threw every rival establishment into the shade. Heavily carved and massive mahogany fixtures, velvet fittings and paneled paintings of nymphs, somewhat scantily arrayed, entered into the Moore decorative scheme.

Visitors to Philadelphia counted a visit to the Girard bar one of the things, on no account, to be missed.

Down on Walnut Street, just west of Eighth, was Poulson's, adjoining to the east the old Central Theatre. Poulson's was also noted largely for its paintings, the character of the subjects being such that, when the Brooks License act went into effect in 1889 a remonstrance filed against renewal of the Poulson license, by Lewis D. Vail, the Gibboney of that day, was based upon the supposed indecency of these pictures. Also famous for its works of art was "Charlie" Zeisse's, on the south side of Walnut Street, in the same block. Zeisse's was favored extensively by the theatrical element, chiefly those playing in burlesque, and what was then known as variety." The Zeisse pictures, however, ran to still-life subjects and were not objectionable to the Josiah Leeds, morally straight-laced, of that day.

On Eighth Street below Walnut, on the west side, stood Campiglia's, a resort famous in those days for its spaghetti, Chianti and Neapolitan cookery. Around on Ninth Street above Walnut, on the west side, was a place very much similar to Steve Walker's, kept by George De Waele. De Waels's was, was, essentially, a resort for the elect. It was managed along very strict lines and was frequented only by the very best class of drinkers.

At the northeast corner of Seventh and Chestnut was the old guy House, kept by Charlie Murray, another resort for men-about-town, as was the Continental bar at Ninth and Chestnut, then under the control of the Kingsleys.

A few paces below Chestnut, on Eighth, was the saloon of E.T. Dillon, a brother of the "Tom" Dillon, whose saloon on Tenth Street was, for many years, a landmark in the city's centre. On Chestnut Street, west of Tenth, under the old Chestnut Street Opera House, was the saloon of "Billy" McGonegal, a favorite tippling-place for the journalistic and sporting element and on Eleventh, just below Chestnut, the widely-known bar of "Billy" Morris.

"Joe" Bowes, famous for his old ales, kept at Eighth and Sansom, and "Tom" Bowes, his brother, at Eighth and Locust. "Charlie" Souls, in those days, was at the northeast corner of Eighth and Sansom. Later he fitted up and opened the Rathskeller, in the basement of the Betz Building, made notable by "Lew" Megargee, Old Commodore Betz, Count O'Neill and about everybody of any prominence in local politics.

At Thirteenth and Sansom Streets was Henry Hornickel's noted for stewed snapper, and at Fifteenth Street, on the present site of the Union League, the place of Dennis McGowan, famed far and wide for the excellence of its shore dinners. Back in Drury Street was the quaint, old ale house of "Billy" McGillin, and around on Penn Square the cafe of Otto Fuchsluger, a cafe and bar much favored by working newspapermen. On Broad street, midway between Walnut and Locust Streets, was Doerler's, a quit, German saloon whose chief claim to note was that it was the meeting place, for many years, of the Pegasus club, numbering among its members such local litterateurs as "Dan" Dawson, "Billy" Walsh, Charles Henry Luders, C.H. A. Esling, Melville Phillips, Morton McMichaels, 3d, and "Tom" White.

Among the pug element of that period, notable places were those of Dominick McCaffrey, on Eighth Street; Fogarty & Ryan, on vine Street; Arthur Chambers, on Ridge Road and Wood; Walter Campbell's, "Long Branch Phil Daly's," at Second and Pine Streets, "Billy" McLean's, Girard Avenue.

Other popular saloons were John Welde's, at Broad and Christian Streets; "Squire" McMullen's Randall House, at Ninth and Bainbridge Streets; the place of "gil" ball, Negro leader, on Lombard Street; Dalmedo's, on Girard Avenue; Dennis Considine's, at Second and Walnut streets; Wm. Lindig's and Gus Seitz's, at Fourth Street and Girard Avenue; John Hahm's, on Girard Avenue and Randolph, where the Quail Club covied.

Clustered about the old financial district, at Third and Walnut Streets, where the White House, owned by ex-City commissioner "Bill" "Larry" McCormick, afterward of the Bellevue, tended bar; "Jim" Gosch's, behind the Custom House in Library Street, and "Corny" Haggerty's, at Fourth and Spruce Streets.

Wine and music mixed amicably at Bob Tagg's Maennerchor Garden, northeast corner of Franklin and Fairmount Avenue; Thron's Broadway Garden, at Broad and Locust Streets, on the site of the present Hotel Walton; Tirsot's and Turf Villa, on the River Drive, and at Seney's Garden, at Eighth and Vine Streets, on the River Drive, and at Seney's Garden, at Eighth and Vine Streets. Tony Wagner's "Punch Bowl," which sat on a hill on North Broad Street below Susquehanna Avenue, and Lamb Tavern road in the rear; "Fred" Stehle's and "Dick" Patterson's, at the Falls, were favorite resorts with horsemen, as was also Tagg's Belmont Mansion, in the West Park.

No article assuming to deal with the drinking places of Philadelphia could be complete without a mention of "Bill" Long's Museum, on third Street below Fitzwater, and of "Joe" Malatesta's, on Eighth containing curious and wax reproductions of notorious criminals. Here could be seen the cart which Anton Probst, the murderer of the Deering family, down the "Neck", used in hauling the bodies. This murder created quite a sensation among the residents of Southwark.

Then there was Pat. Gaffney's Museum at 321 W. Girard Avenue, with its Irish relics, notably the large lock taken from Dublin jail, portraits of the Irish martyrs, blackthorn canes, pictures of pugilistic events, etc.

Matltesta's, like Campiglia's, was noted for its Italian cooking, and was the scene of many a gay party of gourmets, with a penchant for the vintages of the land of grapes and olives. One of the oddities of saloon keeping was the Cobblestone Saloon, Thirteenth Street and Moyamensing Avenue, for ears a show place in the southern section of the city. the entire barroom was fitted up in cobblestones, set in cement, and was well worth a visit.

Historic Old Taverns

Historic old taverns that kept alive historic traditions were the Jolly Post and Seven Stars, in Frankford; the old blue Anchor, in Dock Street; the King of Prussia the Wheel Pump, the Anthony Wayne and the Blue Bell.

Thousands of other drinking places are no more that deserve a line or two of mention in deference to ties that connect them with the past growth and progress of the town. There was "Paddy" Carroll's, for instance, dear to the dog-fighters and rat-terrier fanciers of another day, and Arthur Chambers, on Ridge Avenue above Wood Street, locally noted as the stopping place of the mighty John L. Sullivan when, as a champion, he hied himself to Nicholl's handball alley, on Carpenter Street near Ninth, to indulge in his favorite pastime.

"Jerry" Donohue's, at Eighth and Vine Streets, for years the most remunerative saloon in Philadelphia; George Dasch's, on Market Street; George Concannon's, "Pat" Bunce's, gibbons, and "Two for Five" Moran's, are all worth a line. At "Two-for Five's" the tippler of limited means could purchase two hummers, of a fluid with a kick like whisky, for a solitary nickel.


Philadelphia, previous to the enactment of the Brooks High License Law, had a large number of saloons or taverns, and previous to the war of the rebellion it was a custom of these taverns to have a large sign in front of the premises, mostly illustrated, and some with quaint sayings, as:

The "Yellow Cottage," on the east side of Second Street, near
"Rove not from sign to sign, but stop in here
Where naught exceeds the prospect but the cheer."

On thirteenth Street above locust there was "Mcdermott's Inn," who announced his business as follows:

I, William McDermott, lives here;
I sells good porter, ale, and beer;
I've made my sign a little wider
To let you know I see good cider.

On Shippen Street (Bainbridge) between Third and Fourth there was a tavern having a swinging sign representing a sailor and a woman, separated by these lines:

"The seaworn sailor here will find
The porter good, the treatment kind."

"The Three Jolly Sailors" was the sign of a tavern on Water Street above Almond. On this sign was a tar strapping a block, and the motto below made him say:

"Brother Sailor! please to stop,
And lend a hand to strap this block;
for if you do not stop or call,
I cannot strap this block at all."

In Frankford Patrick Keegan presided over the Bee-Hive. On his sign he had this inviting inscription:

"Here in this hive we're all alive,
Good liquor makes us funny;
If you are dry, step in and try
The flavor of our honey."

The "Lemon Tree," also called the "Wigwam," was the headquarters of butchers, situated on Sixth Street, Noble to buttonwood, extending westward to nearly Seventh Street.

The Bull's Head Inn, Second Street above Poplar. in the yard of this tavern was exhibited the plan of the first railroad in the United States.

A place much frequented by farmers was the Black Bear Tavern, on the southeast corner of Fifth and Merchant Streets, with a large yard containing wagon sheds extending eastward on Merchant Street.

The "Butcher's Arms," connected with the drove-yard on the north side of Vine Street, Franklin and Eighth Streets.

The Washington Tavern, at the corner of Sixth and Carpenter (Jayne) Streets. Later on this became known as the Falstaff Inn.

The "Yellow Cat," corner of Eighth and Zane (Filbert) Street.

The "Harp and Crown," corner of Third Street and Elbow Lane.

"The Sorrel Horse," at the intersection of Frankford Road and Shackamaxon Street, where dancing was the most popular entertainment.

"Shooting the Deserter," Boon's Tavern, at the foot of Shackamaxon Street.

"Landing of Columbus," Beach Street above Laurel.

"The Mansion," Frankford Road and Manderson (below Richmond) Street.

Daniel O'Connell's Inn, west side of Second Street above Thompson.

The "Bird-in-Hand," Fourth Street below Callowhill.

On Third Street above Shippen (Bainbridge) "X-10-U8."

The "Adam and Eveses" Garden, on Sixth Street below Norris, with a sign picturing Adam and Even in Eden. Later on this was called" The Rosengarten" conducted by Fred Schwamb.

The "Cock and Lion," at the corner of Second and Coates Streets. The sign was later on removed to a tavern on Fourth Street above George.

The "Shakespeare Hotel," northwest corner of Sixth and Chestnut Streets.

"The Robin Hood Tavern," a popular dance house, on Poplar Street below Fourth.

"The Richmond Hotel," at Port Richmond. Charles J. Wolbert, who occupied it in 1821, announced that in addition to his large stock of catfish he had received about fourteen hundred others from the cove opposite Richmond.

"The Decatur Inn," on Carpenter (Jayne) Street below Seventh. Originally known as the German Hall, frequented by quiet loving people. It gave its name to Decatur Street, which was formerly called Turner's Alley, now Marshall Street.

"Our House," on Library Street above Fourth, later on known as "Military Hall."

"The Wasp and Frolic," at the corner of Vine and Garden Streets.

"The Old White Bear," corner Fifth and Race Streets.

"The Pewter Platter," Front Street above Market.

"The Red Lion," Second and Noble Streets, noted for selling dressed hogs.

"The Rising Sun," at the intersection of Germantown Road and Old York Road.

"The Wheat Sheaf," Richmond Street and Wheat Sheaf Lane.

"The Jolly Post Boy," Main Street (Frankford Avenue), Frankford.

"The Seven Stars," Main Street and Bustleton Pike, Frankford.

"The Golden Swan," Third Street above Arch.

"The Stetson House," Third Street above Willow.

"The Merchants' House," Third Street above Callowhill.

"The Green Tree," Race Street below Third.

"The Wagon and Horses" (later on Landner's Military Hall)

528-532 North Third Street.

"The Bald Eagle," west side of Third Street above Callowhill.

"The Black Bear," Third Street, east side, below Willow Streets.

"The Seven Presidents," Coates Street above Ninth.

"The Barley Sheaf," fourth Street below vine.

"The Kensington Black Horse," Frankford Avenue, west side, below Palmer Street.

"The Bulls Head," Front Street above Poplar

"The Bulls Head," front Street above Poplar

"The Delaware," Second Street, east side, below Lombard.

"The Eagle," 227 North Third Street.

"The Fleece Hotel," 1120 Frankford Avenue.

"The Pennsylvania Farmer," Third Street below Callowhill.

"The Seven Presidents," Seventh and Germantown Road.

"The Sorrel Horse," Fourth Street below Vine.

Northern Liberties Town House, Second Street above Coates.

"The Green Tree," corner Marlborough Street and Girard Avenue.

"The Thomas Jefferson," corner Fifth and Poplar Streets.

Keystone Hotel, Third Street above Girard Avenue) adjoining the Bible Christian Church, which had nails driven through the bricks in the sidewalk) now the site of Louis Burk Abattoir.

"The Bull's Head," later on Montgomery Hotel, northeast corner Sixth and Willow Streets.

"The Red Lion," corner Fourth and Wood Streets.

"The Hornet and Peacock," Fourth Street below New.

"The Hornet and Peacock," Fourth Street below Girard Avenue.

"The Falstaff," Carpenter (later on Jayne) Street above Sixth.

"The White Bear," southwest corner Fifth and Race Streets.

"The Spread Eagle," Sixth Street above Diamond.

Phoenix Tavern and Garden, between Fifth and Race Streets and Camac's Lane (Oxford Street) and the present Columbia Avenue. Joseph Knox, an Englishman, kept this place, once the resort of the elite of the city. Camac's Lane ran from Turner's Lane in the southeastwardly direction to Germantown Avenue, passing the Phoenix Tavern on the south. Cohocksink Creek flowed through the garden, with a fancy bridge over it. Later on this property was purchased by the firm of Powers & Weightman, who erected chemical works there, later on removing to Ninth and Parrish Streets. The buildings for a long number of years were used in the manufacture of furniture, notably chairs, by D. B. Slifer, and Hall. Eventually these factories were torn down by the Weightman estate, and neat and commodious dwellings erected.

Many Kensingtonians can remember the Black Horse Hotel, at the intersection of Hanover Street and Frankford Avenue, or the Penn Treaty Tavern, on Beach Street below Marlborough.

It is also within the memory of many, of the Fairhill Mansion, "The Revolution House," which was on a plot extending from York to Cumberland Street, and from Sixth to Seventh Street, with a creek to the north running eastwardly.

Continental Hotel, corner Ninth and Chestnut Streets, was opened for guests on February 16, 1860. For a long number of years this hotel had the patronage of the elite. Opposite to the Continental, at the northeast corner of Ninth and Chestnut Streets, was the Girard House, a house equally as prominent as the Continental.

On Broad Street, west side, below Chestnut, was the commodious and well patronized La Fayette Hotel.

On Chestnut Street above Fifth, the American House.

La Pierre House, Broad Street below Chestnut.

Guy's Hotel, corner Seventh and Chestnut Streets.

The Merchants' House, Fourth Street above Market.

St. Elmo Hotel, Arch Street, north side, above Seventh Street.


Philadelphia has the distinction of being the first place in this country where lager beer was brewed. It was brewed by George Manger in 1846, on New Street below Second. It was dispensed at Wolff's saloon, Dilwyn Street below Callowhill.