Last Call at 36th & Ocean

From the Black Eagle to Jack's Place, this corner bar served as one of Avalon's hottest night spots for almost a century.

By The Avalon History Center

It was Jack’s Place that onlookers mourned on May 22, 2019, as the demolition crew tore down the building, but the corner of 36th Street and Ocean Drive has been the site of many a last call.

A prior generation grieved the passing of Gallagher’s Pub, and an even earlier clientele mourned the Black Eagle.

That corner on Ocean Drive has had a long history of housing one of Avalon’s hottest night spots, providing excellent food, the latest entertainment, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Entering the Black Eagle (1941) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center

The Black Eagle

First opened by the Ferrigno family in the 1920s, the Black Eagle Café was allegedly named in honor of Gustavus Bergner, the mayor of Avalon from 1925 to 1937. He was part-owner of the Bergner & Engel Brewing Co., whose trademark symbol was a black eagle.

The Black Eagle Café is said to have been the first Avalon business issued a liquor license by the Borough of Avalon. Over the years, it grew in popularity and size - eventually becoming known to locals as the “Dirty Bird.”

The Black Eagle, Unknown, 1940/1950, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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The interior of the Black Eagle.

Black Eagle Advertisement, Unknown, 1962-05-11, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Matchbook (Black Eagle Cafe), Unknown, 1930/1950, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Black Eagle Postcard (Front), Unknown, 1920/1930, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Black Eagle Postcard (Back), Unknown, 1920/1930, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Advertisements and promotional products used by the Black Eagle - including some that were a tad risqué.

Ownership changed hands several times during the 1940s and 50s, but the Dirty Bird maintained its mayoral connection. Mayor Edith Greenan hosted her infamous “Election Day suppers” at the Black Eagle - a fact which contributed to her downfall after she was accused of busing in non-residents to vote for her. Their alleged reward was a meal at the Black Eagle.

Behind the Black Eagle, Unknown, 1930/1950, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Mayor Edith Greenan, Unknown, 1950/1959, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Greenan Outside Black Eagle, Unknown, 1952, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Joe and Mary Ferrigno posing in the parking lot behind the Black Eagle (left); Mayor Edith Greenan (center); Mayor Green posing with participants at an unidentified event (right).

Gallagher's Pub (1960/1970) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center

Gallagher's Pub

The 1960s saw the Black Eagle come under the ownership of Marie Gallagher, who moved to Avalon in the mid-1940s with her husband Bernie. Together, they also opened Gallagher’s Liquor Store (now Fred’s Avalon Liquor Store).

Bernie and Marie Gallagher (1937) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center

A few years after Bernie’s passing, Marie opened "Gallagher’s Pub" with the help of her two nephews, John Honor and Jack Erkert. John had worked at the Black Eagle, and Jack was hired to manage the business.

Gallagher's Pub Advertisement, Avalon Herald, 1967-10-19, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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A print ad for Gallagher's Pub.

Marie and her three sisters – Martha Erkert, Margaret Honer, and Helen Lyons - ran the restaurant part of the pub, where their delicious homemade soups and sandwiches had quite a following.

Jack's Place Exterior (2018) by UnknownThe Avalon History Center

Jack's Place

In the early 1970s, Jack Erkert and his wife Joanne approached Marie Gallagher with a plan to buy and run the bar themselves. After she agreed, the Erkert’s first change was renaming it to "Jack’s Place."

The Erkerts had very specific ideas about the kind of bar they wanted and quickly put their plans into action by getting Ocean City DJ Bob Eberland to talk up Jack’s Place on his radio show and broadcast live from the bar.

Jack's Place Menu, Unknown, 1975, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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A menu from Jack's Place.

In 1974, the Erkerts brought the whole Stanley Cup-winning Flyers team to Avalon to participate in a charity softball game. From that point, Avalon had its very own sports bar. Over the years, the Jack’s Place softball team played charity matches against Philadelphia Flyers and Eagles players, drawing hundreds of spectators and raising funds for the Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for the Blind.

Working with Avalon’s business community, local figures, and Philadelphia sports personalities, Jack's Place would regularly host events benefitting local and national charities – even after the Erkerts moved on.

Jack's Place from the Road, Unknown, 1977, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Jack and Joanne Erkert, Unknown, 1970/1990, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Jack's Place Softball Team, Unknown, 1980/1985, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Jack's Place Jacket (Front), Felco, 1979, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Jack's Place Jacket (Back), Felco, 1979, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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Top: A streetview of Jack's place (left); Jack and Joanne Erkert (center); the Jack's Place softball team (right). Bottom: A jacket worn by staff at Jack's Place.

Softball Game Ticket, Unknown, 1981, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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A 1981 ticket to a charity softball game between Jack's Place and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Regular sporting events, celebrity appearances, and Jack’s unfailing commitment to his customers and community kept loyal patrons coming back. Yet, the Borough was evolving; the summer season was shortening and attitudes were shifting with regard to the late-night party scene. The Erkerts soon realized it was time for a new generation at Jack’s Place.

In the early 1990s, Jack’s Place was sold to the Voellm family. The new owners kept the bar's name and the tradition of summer sporting events, and the popularity of Jack's Place continued until May 20, 2017, when they “broke the seal” for the last time. Demolition day was May 22, 2019.

"RIP Jack's Place", Unknown, 2019, From the collection of: The Avalon History Center
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The sign at Jack's Place shortly before demolition day.

The History Center Exhibit

Want to see more of the Black Eagle, Gallagher's Pub, or Jack's Place? Check out this 360-degree image of the full exhibit, or visit the Avalon History Center to see it in person!  

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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