2000 Admiral Wilson Boulevard, Camden, NJ
- AKA The Camden Athletic Club
- AKA The YMCA
- AKA The Harem Lounge
- AKA The Oasis Lounge
After the erection of the Hotel Walt Whitman and the opening of the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, many of the same individuals involved in the hotel project became interested in establishing an athletic club on the new thoroughfare. This group was originally known as the City Athletic Club, and among its members were J. David Stern, publisher of the Evening Courier and Morning Post newspapers, James J. Scott, lawyer Ralph W. Wescott, and realtor Samuel B. Dobbs.
When this building opened up for the first time in 1933, the hopes for its future success and growth were quite high. The timing was all wrong, as the nation was in the throes of the Depression, and the City Athletic Club, which erected the building, did not remain viable. This was one of the first buildings beyond Sears Roebuck on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden. When plans were laid, no one really had any idea of what the boulevard would become in the near future, let alone 40 to 60 years later.
By 1947 the building was being used by the Y.M.C.A., but their tenure was short lived, and the group was out of the property by 1956. Around 1964 the building became the Oasis Motel, and with a liquor opened up the lounge in the basement, known appropriately enough, as the Oasis Lounge.
In the early 1970s go-go dancers were featured at all four bars on Admiral Wilson Boulevard, eastbound there was the Admiral, then the Oasis, and lastly the French Quarter, at the city limits. By 1977 the Oasis Lounge became the Harem Lounge, but all that really had changed was the name. The bar did a fairly good business until the property was acquired by the State of New Jersey as part of then Governor Christie Whitman’s effort to impress national Republican leaders at the 2000 Convention and, as a result, a number of seedy businesses were demolished due to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The effort netted her a Cabinet position, but Camden lost a bunch of tax paying businesses, exacerbating an already horrible financial situation.
As well as the bar did, the same could not be said about the motel upstairs. During the 60’s and early 70’s the building did a fair trade, especially with those coming across the bridge from Philadelphia for a little horizontal fun. Things went badly after that, as the Admiral Wilson Boulevard became known as a haven for prostitutes. The Oasis, badly damaged in a March 1987 fire, the Four Winds Motel, and the Wilson Motel throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s became notorious as bailiwicks of the working girls. It was a sad end for a building that had been erected with such high hopes.
The building was also featured in the 1995 Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt movie, 12 Monkeys, which was filmed in and around the Philadelphia metro area.
The Oasis Club was originally known as the City Athletic Club and had many notable Camden residents as it’s members.
Ralph W. Wescott, born in New Jersey in 1883 to John W. and Frances Oatman Wescott, was a prominent figure in Camden’s legal and civic spheres. His father, John W. Wescott, was a distinguished trial lawyer, judge, and a notable figure in President Woodrow Wilson’s political career, giving nominating addresses for Wilson and later writing…
A Pennsauken man, charged last year with having set a Camden motel fire that killed one person and injured 16 others, escaped yesterday from Ancora State Hospital in Winslow Township, according to Camden County police.
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) – A guest who escaped a fire that injured 16 people at a motel and go-go lounge complex has been charged with setting the blaze that forced other patrons to jump from windows and roofs to escape, officials said.
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP)- Sixteen people were injured Friday when fire swept through a motel and go-go lounge, forcing visitors to jump from windows, officials said. Arson investigators were searching for the cause of the fire at the two-story Oasis Motel and its five-story Harem Lounge.
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP)- A suspicious fire swept through a motel and go-go lounge early Friday, forcing visitors to jump from windows and injuring 16 people, and a motel guest was arrested and charged with arson, officials said.