Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Anchorage Today


The Anchorage Today
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The World Famous
Anchorage Tavern
EST 1888
823 Bay Avenue - Somers Point, New Jersey 08244 - (609) 926-1794

The Anchorage Tavern is the oldest, continuously operated business establishment in Somers Point. Built (circa) 1874, it was first known as the Trenton Hotel and catered to seasonal visitors, mainly bird gunners who took on the hunting of birds as a sport. The sheer numbers and variety of the avian species produced the eggs that gave Great Egg Bay its name.

Known as the Anchorage Hotel since 1888, Victorian era spindles once lined the porch, and at the turn of the century the ballroom was built as an addition. For a time the hotel catered to New York and Philadelphia society, when men dressed in tuxedos and women wore long gowns to dinner and strolled on the porch to enjoy the summer breeze.

In August, 1905, as can be seen in the newspaper clipping on the wall, Daniel Reagan, the proprietor at the time, advertised "cheerful rooms," for $8 and $10 a week, with "fish, boating and bathing" being the main attractions.

On a Sunday in 1910 the pastor of St. Augustine's Church took the ferry from Ocean City to Somers Point, walked down Bay Avenue and served the first public mass on the bar of the ballroom of the Anchorage Hotel. Charles Collins was the owner of record at the time.

The Anchorage was not always a saintly haven however. Prohibition rum runners used the same small inlets and side creeks that were used by Colonial smugglers and Revolutionary militia. The rum runners found Great Egg Bay a friendly port, and the Anchorage a popular tavern. At times the Anchorage was known to sport slot machines and its patrons were known to enjoy games of chance.

For a while the bar was owned by Judge Larry Brannigan, who was known as a local Judge Roy Bean and "the law east of Patcong Creek." Hannah Somers, a descendent of the town's founding family, was also a proprietor for many years. Her longtime bartender, John Coyle kept a parrot named Teddy, which picked up an atrocious vocabulary from the regulars at the bar.

After prohibition, the Anchorage was issued the fifth city license C-5. In 1938 the hotel was purchased by Lucille Cornaglia Thompson, who operated the bar until she sold it to her brother Andrew "Henry" Cornaglia in 1945. The Three Keys, who once performed before the Queen of England, were the house band for many years when the Anchorage was known for its fine Italian pasta and sauces, shuffleboard and jukebox.

With the death of Mr. Cornaglia in 1965, his son Andrew assumed the business and he attracted a new, younger clientele who made it a tradition to stop at the Anchorage before patronizing Tony Marts, Bay Shores and other Bay Avenue rock n' roll bars. The Anchorage became famous for serving seven beers for a dollar and the 7 for 1 T-shirts are now collector's items.

The Morris family acquired the Anchorage in 1993, restored the building and kept the nostalgia alive.

Don Mahoney, who used to work in the kitchen at Daniel's, purchased the Anchorage in 1999, and continues the legend.

The Anchorage continues to serve good food and drinks to a new generation of patrons as well as those who return to remember the good old days.

The Anchorage Tavern - A Jersey Shore tradition for over a century.

The Anchorage Tavern Sold

By Bill Kelly

The historic Anchorage Tavern, Somers Point's oldest continuously operated business, has been sold to chef Don Mahoney, who said that he plans no major changes, at least until the end of the summer. Settlement on the $2.3 million deal was set for yesterday. That number includes the transfer of the liquor license, which has already taken place.

Originally built as a hotel for bird gunners and baymen at the end of the last century, some date the building to 1880s, the Anchorage has kept its name over the years and has only changed hands through three families in the past half-century.

Victorian-era photographs show women in gowns and men in suits and ties relaxing on the ornately-trimmed porch during a time when life was lived at a slower pace.

Before St. Joseph's church was built, Catholic masses were held in the living room of a private home until 1910, when Father John F. Sweeney, pastor of St. Augustine's in Ocean City began taking the ferry boat to say Sunday mass in the ballroom of the Anchorage, where there was no shortage of wine for the services.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, the Anchorage was issued liquor license C-5, the fifth legal license and the only one that retains the original name. For a while the hotel and bar were operated by Judge Larry Brannigan, who was known as the local Judge Roy Bean and "The law east of Patcong Creek."

From Brannigan the Anchorage was passed on to Charles Collins, who sold it in 1938 to Lucille Cornaglia Thompson, who sold it to her brother Andrew Cornaglia in 1945. From South Philadelphia, Cornaglia and his wife Lucy (nee Corcione) made the place famous for good Italian food popular with families. "It was a running joke in the family that she could cook for 120, but not for four," said Andrew Cornaglia, Jr., who took over operations of the Anchorage when his father died in 1965.

Although he was only 20 at the time, and not legally old enough to drink, Andrew found himself suddenly responsible for operating the hotel, bar and restaurant. "When my father passed away, I didn't know vodka from gin, and if it wasn't for my mother, I would not have been able to sustain the first couple of years."

While Bay Shores and Tony Marts were famous for their live music, the Anchorage sported a piano that, legend has it, was played by the late, great Nat King Cole, although it was the Seven-for-One draft beers that made the place famous. The Anchorage didn't originate the idea of serving seven for one, but they made it popular and famous with a line of t-shirts that are collector's items today.

Pat Piriano, who worked there during the halcyon days, recalled that, "I was enthralled to be a 19 year old bartender at a place that was considered a legend to my generation. It was wall-to-wall people and lines to get in, with the fire marshall controlling the crowd at the door. There were 10 bartenders, nine bouncers and two glass pickers working most nights from 1978-1981. Then the drinking age went back to 21, but it took a few years for it to become a local bar again."

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