The Clam Broth House, which stood near the corner of Newark and River streets, first opened its doors in 1899. The restaurant was known for its signature clam broth soup. The broth, which was served free of charge, was actually made from the water used to boil the steamers (or steamed clams). The broth was exceptionally salty, which encouraged the broad-shouldered crowd to drink more beer and other assorted libations.
Hoboken and WWI
But this Hoboken landmark was about more than just the broth.
The city of Hoboken's maritime facilities and strategic location made it the choice of the federal government as the prime port of embarkation for troops of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. More than three million soldiers passed through the port in the course of the war.
During this time, there were 237 Hoboken saloons that gave rise to a budding culture of pier guards and troopship crews.
One of the most celebrated bar scenes was at the Clam Broth House, and the crowd would often spill out onto the streets. For many soldiers, this would be the last bar they would visit before shipping off to the war.
In fact, President Woodrow Wilson occasionally bade farewell to troops from the balcony of the Clam Broth House as they boarded the boats, and he greeted them when they came home.
The rough days of longshoremen
Following the second World War, new interest arose for Hoboken's piers.
In 1952, the U.S. Maritime Administration deeded the property over to the city of Hoboken. The city then signed a 52-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to operate the former steamship complex there as a cargo terminal.
With a renovation priced at $18 million, the southern piers became one of the country's most-used import locations as well as home to the hundreds of longshoremen who were needed to unload the cargo.
Their lifestyle was immortalized in the 1954 film On the Waterfront. The film, which was shot on location in Hoboken in 36 days, won eight Academy Awards, most notably Best Picture and Best Actor for Marlon Brando.
As one could imagine, the longshoremen were a thirsty bunch, and both Brando and director Elia Kazan were known to be regulars at the Clam Broth House during filming. It was at the Clam Broth House where they befriended several actual longshoremen.
According to Hoboken historian Leonard Luizzi, Dolly Sinatra, Frank Sinatra's mother, would frequent the bar on Friday nights, and hold court in one of its back rooms.
The Clam Broth demolished
The Clam Broth House continued to serve customers until a portion of the façade buckled in May of 2003. After a lengthy legal debate over whether the building could be saved, a judge ruled late last year that the building was "structurally unsound" and had to be razed. The building was demolished earlier this year.
Within the past three weeks, the city's Zoning Board of Adjustments has approved the design for a new seven-story building to be erected on the property. The Clam Broth House Restaurant will be re-opened in the bottom two stories, and the famous neon sign of a pointing finger will be restored and attached to the building's façade.