A historic Lodi building that housed the Log Cabin, one of the first restaurants in town, and a bar called The Spot where people danced and drank in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, was torn down Thursday.
The building at the corner of Victor Road and Cherokee Lane became too expensive to continually fix, owner Satbir Singh said.
Singh has owned Aldee Market with his wife, Jyoti Singh, for the last 22 years. They bought the former Log Cabin Restaurant, which was turned into Cherokee Liquors, a decade ago.
They plan to use the space for a parking lot, and then eventually expand Aldee Market.
Local residents familiar with the building estimate it was constructed in the 1930s.
It is unclear when the restaurant first opened, but it debuted when Cherokee Lane was still Highway 99, the central street in town. The oldest mention of the restaurant in the News-Sentinel was a 1935 advertisement.
"The Log Cabin is serving Budweiser beer on draught, 100 percent in large glasses. Budweiser, by case, $2.75. Free delivery," the ad read.
Jim Thorpe Inc. Demolition and Underground Tank Removal brought in a excavator and knocked down the building on Thursday, separating any valuable metal from the debris. Owner Marty Thorpe said it was bittersweet tearing down the building because he remembers going there in the late '60s when Bill Cronin owned it.
Thorpe, who was in his 20s, would cash his check and have a few drinks at the bar, which was then called Cronin's Lounge.
Before tearing down the restaurant, Thorpe hired Shane Jones, owner of Environmental Science Services, to go through the building looking for any problems like asbestos.
Jones found an old sign hanging in the shadows of the building advertising barbecued beef for 10 cents and a clubhouse sandwich for 40 cents, the most expensive items on the menu.
Nick Felton Sr. opened Topaz Restaurant across the street from Log Cabin in 1946, Nick Felton Jr. said. At that point, the Log Cabin had already been open for years.
"It was sort of a novelty place," Felton said. "The outside of the building (did) look like a log cabin made out of logs."
He said the restaurant and the nightclubs that operated in the building were always separate.
The restaurant was open 24 hours a day at first, but eventually started closing overnight with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays, Felton said.
"It depended more on 'drive through' people than it did on local people, except on Friday and Saturday nights. A lot of people drank in those days. After the bars closed at 2 a.m., all of our places were packed because everyone wanted to get breakfast before going home," Felton said.
Former Lodi Mayor Jim McCarty, who later bought the building, remembers stopping at the restaurant for breakfast in the mid-1950s. He said people seemed to always sit at the counter first, even though there was table service.
Local historian Ralph Lea said that in the 1940s, The Spot, the bar in the back, was remodeled.
"They had some big celebrities stop in there. It was kind of a prominent place for a Lodi place," he said.
It had a dance floor, a bandstand and a mezzanine where people could take their drinks and watch the dancing. There were two entrances, one through a hallway to the back bar, and then the more popular entrance in the back, McCarty said.
"All of these ministers who were going to preach a sermon on Sunday snuck in the back door for a snort," he said.
Thorpe said he remembers going to the bar later in the late 1960s when it was Cronin's Place. He remembered Bill Cronin's wife loved to dance, and the bar was elegantly decorated.
"It was not a honky-tonk," Thorpe said. "It was quite an upscale cocktail lounge. ... It was sparkly, like a 1940s, New York-style bar. It had style."
Thorpe said he believes the bar closed shortly after a shooting in the back parking lot. On Dec. 21, 1971, Riney Sypnieski was shot after an argument in the bar, according to News-Sentinel archives.
The bar was closed for years before McCarty bought it in 1982 to turn it into Cherokee Liquors.
"When we bought it, it was a jungle. The biggest spiders I've ever seen in my life; you couldn't walk through the building without brushing cobwebs," he said.
McCarty and his wife, Mary, ran the business, and Thorpe said he would often drop by to get the latest city news, since McCarty was mayor the year the business opened.
"He always had a lot of stories and was always talking about the future of Lodi," Thorpe said.