CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
WEBER'S HOF BRAU
Central Airport, Crescent Boulevard South of the Airport Circle
Pennsauken New Jersey
Technically not a Camden establishment, John Weber's Hof Brau was just outside the city limits, adjacent to Central Airport, on Crescent Bouvard, US Route 130, south of the Airport Circle in Pennsauken. A popular spot for entertaining and for banquets, it was destroyed by fire in 1952.
|Camden Courier-Post - August 26, 2004|
the years, landmark restaurants fall to flames
The destruction earlier this month of the Coral Reef Restaurant and Lounge in Bellmawr has brought to mind a couple of other spectacular fires that have destroyed landmark restaurants.
On Saturday night, March 31, 1962 a fire, with estimated damages of $750,000, destroyed the Pub on the Airport Circle in Pennsauken.
William Naulty, a retired reporter remembers covering that fire. "There were 800 people including employees in that building when that fire broke out," Naulty remembers. "But everybody got out safely."
Later that year, on July 11, another spectacular fire consumned the Marlton Manor, a popular restaurant and nightclub at Route 70 and Cornell Avenue, Cherry Hill.
More than 100 firefighters and 12 pieces of apparatus from Cherry Hill and surrounding areas fought the early-morning blaze but they were unable to save the building. The restaurant was closed at the time.
Hof Brau fire
The restaurant fire that stands out foremost in my memory was Weber's Hof Brau in Pennsauken. At the time, anybody of any importance in Camden city or county met at Weber's.
It was the "in" place of the 1930s, 40s and early 50s. The restaurant was on Route 130, in the shadow of Central Airport near Airport Circle.
It was a favorite place where dignitaries, businessmen and local politicians would gather to conduct business over cocktails, lunch and dinner. It was also a popular restaurant for travelers who used the Central Airport during the 1930s and 408.
The restaurant was founded and owned by John E. Weber, a South Jersey restaurant and nightclub pioneer. Weber had purchased an original airplane hangar a wooden shell; from the neighboring airport in 1933 and converted it into the landmark Hof Brau.
500 people escape
Around 8:30 on April 12, 1951, as more than 400 patrons wined and dined in the restaurant, the fire broke out in the ceiling between the main kitchen and the service bar, the Courier-Post reported.
Three hours later, the building lay in ruins. Only a few walls of the rambling one-story frame building were left standing. All 500 people, including 62 employees, escaped uninjured, losing only their hats and coats.
For many, there was no time to retrieve their belongings from the checkrooms as the people raced to escape the smoke and flames. One hat-check girl managed to distribute more than 100 garments and then she had to be helped from the building, leaving behind her own belongings, the reports said.
Witnesses reported that flames raced in all directions through the wooden Swiss tavern-type building and that the chief steward and the head waiter helped direct some of the people, as they attempted to quell the blaze with fire extinguishers.
Camden's Mayor George E. Brunner was among the 250 members and guests of the Swiss Benevolent Association, which was meeting in the Swiss Room, in the south end of the building.
As Brunner and the guests fled the building, a four-man Philadelphia musical group called the "Famous Eldoradians" continued to play uptil the very last minute. The musicians then escaped through a window leaving behind their instruments
More than 250 firefighters converged on the scene from Camden, Pennsauken, Collingswood, Woodlynne, Delaware Township (now Cherry Hill), and Merchantville.
Brunner, who lost his hat and coat to the fire, joined the crowd outside, braving an early spring chill and watched as the building succumbed to the fire.
They claimed they could hear "frequent dull explosions," apparently as bottle after bottle of liquor exploded.
Reports claim that as firefighters arrived, flames burst through the roof. Some said the flames were visible five miles away. Firefighters were forced to lay hose lines 2,000 feet to the Cooper River since there was only one hydrant near the restaurant and its water pressure was low.
The fire caused a traffic snarl at the Airport Circle but Pennsauken police were able to keep traffic moving so that fire trucks could get through.
Weber, who claimed that $15,000 worth of food and a $75,000 stock of liquor were destroyed, said it would cost more than $200,000 to replace and re-equip the restaurant.
But the restaurant was never rebuilt.
|Weber's Hof Brau on fire- April 12, 1951|
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