Donkey’s Place, at 1223 Haddon Avenue, does not appear as a bar in the 1918-1919 Camden City Directory.
The building appears to have operated as a speakeasy during the Prohibition years, 1919 through 1933. A private club called the Parkside Athletic Association had space in the building, and an elaborate system of alarms and bells was installed, which is still in evidence today.
By 1939 the bar at 1223 Haddon Avenue had been acquired by Charles E. A. “Pop” Mathews, who had operated bars, taverns, and hotels throughout the city for many years. By 1939 Mr. Mathews was living above the bar. Mr. Mathews resided at the bar until his passing on July 6, 1942. After his death, his wife and sons took a shot at operating the establishment, as the bar appears in the 1943 Camden City Directory under the name of Mrs. Ada Mathews, his widow.
By 1947 the Mathews family had sold the property to Leon Lucas, who had been the on the United States 1928 Olympic boxing team as a light heavyweight, in the early 1940s.
Leon Lucas renamed the establishment Donkey’s Place, and the bar soon gained a reputation for it’s delicious steak sandwiches, served with fried onions on a poppy seed roll. The bar remains in the hands of the Lucas family, with son Bob Lucas operating the business since his father’s passing in 1971.
Donkey’s Place remain open as of Fall 2022, known far and wide for delicious food and drink. In 2003 Bob Lucas opened a second location in Medford NJ, and in 2005, a third Donkey’s Place opened up, at 1018 Asbury Avenue in Ocean City NJ.
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LEON LUCAS was born in Camden, New Jersey on September 4, 1901, and in addition to being an Olympic boxer, he founded a well-known South Jersey restaurant.
Donkey’s Place, at 1223 Haddon Avenue, does not appear as a bar or restaurant in the 1918-1919 Camden City Directory.
Camden landmark does one thing – and does it right
Donkey’s Place, a bar and cheesesteak landmark on Haddon Avenue, is alive and well after 61 years of operation by the Lucas family.
Donkey’s Place is a Stubborn Survivor, and so is its Cheesesteak
It is a bit of Camden in amber now, Donkey’s Place is, or maybe a shrine – the dingy bar hung with photos of the founder, his dukes perpetually up; the grill steaming with steaks and onions; the back room still swathed in the original tobacco-colored mural, a sweep of Sahara, its palms chipped and faded from 60 years of wear.
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