Gordon’s Hotel and Livery

Drinking in a bar - AI Stock Photo

802 South 2nd Street; Corner of South 2nd Street and Pine Street

The Gordon family’s entrepreneurial journey began around the year 1876 when Thomas Gordon, alongside his wife Maria, embarked on a venture that would shape their legacy for generations to come. Establishing a saloon and stable at 801 South 2nd Street in Camden, New Jersey, they set the stage for a business that would serve the community for several decades. The Gordons’ establishment quickly became a notable presence in the area, known not only for its services but also for the family’s dedication and strong work ethic.

By the 1890s, the Gordon family was firmly entrenched in their businesses. However, it was during this period that tragedy struck the family. Both Thomas and Maria Gordon passed away in the early months of 1895. This double loss marked a significant turning point in the family’s history, as the responsibility for the business operations shifted primarily to their sons, Thomas and Robert.

Interestingly, Robert Gordon initially embarked on a different career path than the family’s saloon and stable business. City directories from 1887 through 1890-1891 indicate that he worked as a printer/compositor, suggesting a departure from the family trade. However, the Gordon family’s legacy was firmly rooted in the saloon and stable at 801 South 2nd Street.

As the 1890s progressed, both Thomas and Robert Gordon took the reins of the family business, ensuring its continued success. Their joint efforts solidified the establishment’s reputation in the local community.

The family’s political engagement also played a role in their community presence. Robert Gordon, in particular, ventured into politics and was elected as a Republican councilman in 1904. Serving as a representative of Camden’s Fifth Ward, his involvement reflected the family’s commitment to the welfare of the neighborhood.

By 1910, the Gordon family’s roles in the business were well-established, as revealed by the U.S. Census of April 18, 1910. Robert Gordon, aged 45 and born in Ireland, was identified as the proprietor of the livery stable, a position he had taken over from his father. Emma Gordon, Robert’s wife, aged 37 and born in New Jersey, was noted as not employed. Thomas Gordon, Robert’s brother, aged 49 and also born in Ireland, continued the family tradition by serving as the proprietor of the saloon. These details offer a snapshot of the family’s dynamics and their respective roles within the family businesses.

Tragedy struck the Gordon family once again when Thomas W. Gordon, Robert’s brother, passed away in 1912 at the age of 51. This loss undoubtedly had a profound impact on the family’s dynamics and the operations of both the saloon and the stable.

As time continued to progress, the City Directory for 1914 reflected Robert W. Gordon’s continued involvement in the livery and liquor business at 801 South 2nd Street. Additionally, his residence remained at 807 South 2nd Street. Robert Gordon’s dedication to the business and the community remained steadfast.

Emma Gordon, a resilient and determined figure, took over the management of the bar following Robert’s passing in December 1914. Under her capable stewardship, the establishment continued to thrive, becoming a vital part of the local neighborhood until 1919. However, as the years unfolded, a confluence of factors began to reshape the Gordon family’s business endeavors.

The changing neighborhood demographics, Emma’s advancing age, and the advent of Prohibition in the United States led her to reconsider her role in the saloon and stable business. Prohibition, which began in 1919, significantly impacted businesses involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages. In light of these challenges, Emma decided to lease the business, marking a transition in the establishment’s history.

This decision introduced new characters into the narrative, including Joseph Devine, known as Polack Joe Devon. He was a somewhat notorious figure, blending politics with a shadowy underworld presence in Camden’s Third Ward. Emma’s move to lease the business marked a notable change in its character, as Joseph Devine, and others who followed him, operated it under “soft drinks” licenses, allowing for the sale of low-alcohol beer. This transformation reflected the shifting landscape of the neighborhood and the constraints of Prohibition.

By 1924, the bar at 801 South 2nd Street was operated by Polack Joe. Emma Gordon had returned to 807 South 2nd Street by this time, resuming her residence there. This period marked a significant change in the establishment’s character, as it adapted to the legal restrictions on alcohol sales during Prohibition.

By 1929, Jerome A. Mauro assumed ownership of both the residence at 807 South 2nd Street and the bar at 801. The bar continued to operate under a soft drink license, showcasing its adaptability and resilience during a period of significant change in American history.

While the bar’s reputation likely experienced fluctuations over the years, it was undoubtedly a prominent presence along South 2nd Street. Its historical significance is characterized by the evolving neighborhood, changing clientele, and the complex interplay of politics and business.

The 1947 Camden City Directory provides a glimpse into the Gordon family’s legacy. While the house at 807 South 2nd Street was still occupied, there was no mention of 801 South 2nd Street in the directory. This absence suggests that the latter building may have ceased to exist by that time, marking a poignant conclusion to the story of the Gordon family’s saloon and stable—a business that left an indelible mark on the history of Camden, New Jersey.

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