In 1988 my brothers and I, young men in our mid twenties, purchased what was then the Central Bar on the corner of 7th and Northampton streets in downtown Easton. We had just finished rehabilitating a building on the 200 block of Northampton Street and were looking for our next project.
The Central Bar was for sale, liquor license included, and we decided to go for it. By all rights the building probably should have been condemned. The bar had been closed for a year, there had been a fire upstairs, and there was a ramshackle addition off the rear of the original structure of dubious nature and construction.
The place was literally falling down... the roofline sagged, inside the pipes were rotten, the plaster was falling off the walls, and the rear addition was ready to cave in. What were we thinking?
"People told us we were crazy for opening an upscale establishment in a neighborhood like that" recalls my brother Jeff. "And when we decided not to have the popular mass produced domestics on tap they said we'd never make it... be closed within a year". But we had a vision and stuck to our guns. Maybe we had the courage of our conviction or maybe we were just too young and naive to think we could fail.
We restored the 2 residences upstairs… one 2 bedroom townhouse with original interior stone walls and the other a very roomy 3 bedroom, 2 bath townhome. We jacked the building up to repair the sagging roofline, replaced the roof, clad the exterior in cedar siding, installed new windows, furnaces, bathrooms, kitchens, plumbing, gas, electric services, refinished the floors and sheetrocked and painted the entire structure. Ken did the bulk of the demolition and framing work early on,
Jeff would come home from college on weekends to lend a hand when he could, and I was working a full time and helping on my days off. I eventually quit my job and lived off my savings for about 7 months to help finish the project and get the Pub open. I remember working sun up till sundown and being filthy, grimy and smelly after a hard days work. Then we’d head up Northampton Street to the old Mt. Vernon Hotel and sit at the bar drinking 7oz bottles of Schmidt’s for 35¢. Ah, the good ol’ days.
I tied a red handkerchief to the protruding end and off we went. Thank god I didn’t have to make any quick stops… those I-beams would have easily gone right through the windshield….looking back it’s probably not the smartest thing I ever did. Anyway, after several trips we had enough beams to build our support structure. Our neighbor Elliot who owns Jacobs Produce gave us a hand with his bucket truck and we hoisted them into place. He also did all the cutting and welding for us and never asked us for a penny. I remember working quite a few late nights after the produce market closed before being able to head down to the Mt Vernon for our nightly treat. Needless to say Jacob’s Produce has been our only produce supplier in our 20 years of being in business.
“We’ll be open in 2 weeks” no matter if we were 2 days or 2 months away from completion. We opened Porters’ Pub in 1990 as a Publick house in the true sense of the word. It’s a local place where the regulars all know each other and the bartenders have your favorite drink ready when you sit down. Conversation and friendly debate is encouraged and the small TV is turned on only by request in anticipation of a particular event. Though we have all worked hard on our business over the years, covering every position from bartender, cook, dishwasher, bookkeeper, waiter and host, we also realize the importance of a friendly well trained staff. Our staff is what makes the Pub so great and without them we wouldn’t be here today.
I guess we all got our strong sense of tradition and history from our mom and dad, but there’s no doubt we all have it. All three of us would much rather restore a building than tear it down and replace it, even though it’s usually cheaper to build new. There’s something inherently valuable in preserving our past. The beautiful architecture evident throughout the city is what drew us here in the first place. We did a number of smaller projects together in the years after the Pub opened but I guess we started getting itchy again around 2003 and were looking for another real restoration project to dig into. You know the old saying “be careful what you wish for”.
The old Washington School building behind the Pub on 7th Street came up for sale and we couldn’t resist. It was built in 1854 as the first publicly funded schoolhouse in the City of Easton and had been sitting vacant for 30 or 40 years. It’s now a beautifully restored fully occupied building with 5 spacious 2 bedroom apartments, hardwood floors, huge windows, 13 foot ceilings and a restored façade. But that’s another story…