History of a House
The Building at 203 Fayette Street
We Love Tony & Joe’s Pizza
But How About That Building
By Jack Coll
Tony and Joe’s Pizzeria is currently located at 203 Fayette Street, but the building wasn’t built as a Pizzeria. The three story flat-roof brick building sits on property once owned by David Harry, and bequeathed to son Benjamin Harry and later deeded to the extremely prominent trustees of the “Sons of America” who back in 1890 was headed by Thomas Hallowell and George Light.
The full name of the organization was “The Washington Camp No. 121 Patriotic Order Sons of America” or “P. O. S. of A.” The P. O. S. of A. was chartered in Conshohocken on August 2, 1870. The Patriotic Order Sons of America is an American patriotic fraternal organization that traces its origins to the anti-alien riots of the 1840’s. Founded in 1847 in Philadelphia, the P. O. S. of A. once had “camps” (chapters) in 20 states. At its peak, there were more than 600 camps nationwide and the Conshohocken camp was considered one of the most active in the country. In 1891 when the local Order of the P .O. S. of A. constructed their building the national organization boasted more than 62,000 members in Pennsylvania alone with large chapters in New Jersey, Maryland, and New York.
The Washington Camp No. 121, Patriotic Order Sons of America was organized on the evening of August 2, 1870 by Past State President George Blake of Philadelphia. A number of the Conshohocken founding members in 1870 included Howard Savler, John Collins, Amos Burhouse, Parker Famous, John Brown, John Wilkins, Henry Rennard, Alfred Bennett, Harry Lewis, Edward Famous, William Holstein and Rev. A. B. Atkins.
From 1870-1880 the Conshohocken members of the P. O. S. of A. met in the odd Fellows Hall then located on lower Fayette Street before moving to a large meeting room above John Ross’s store. When Washita Hall was erected they were the first tenant to accept the spacious lodge room in the fourth floor of the building then located at First Avenue and Fayette Street. The membership met at Washita Hall until they moved into their own building.
The corner stone for the P. O. S. of A building was laid on April 30, 1891 and was completed and occupied by March of 1892. The building was dedicated on April 30, 1892 with fitting ceremonies and a grand parade. The total cost of the building was about $14,000. The P. O. S. of A. established a library that among other things helped the membership increase from 230 to 260 members within a short amount of time.
Like many of the borough’s early organizations the Patriotic Order Sons of America slowly lost members and ceased to exist in Conshohocken. Today the society maintains a presence only in Pennsylvania, where just 14 camps remain. The national headquarters is currently located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
However the building they constructed nearly 130 years ago has served the borough in many different capacities over the years including being home to the Conshohocken Post Office, a music store back in the early 1970’s, the USA local union hall in the 1950’s, McClements Drug Store in 1925, back when drug stores sold Parker Fountain Pens, a large selection of chocolates, Perfume, toys and games, stationery, cameras, cigars and cigarettes, Bon Bon Dishes along with a soda fountain complete with a counter. Some of you might remember Jack’s Luncheonette back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s or perhaps “The Hot Spot” restaurant in the early 1960’s. Then there was the Conshohocken Chamber of Commerce office and I’m sure I missed a few so feel free to comment. However everyone alive today will only ever know the corner as Tony & Joe’s Pizza. (I suggest the pepperoni pizza.)
If you enjoyed this edition of “History of a House” there are more than two dozen editions along with other interesting histories of the borough on “Conshystuff.com” under articles by Jack Coll.
One final note, 2020 has been a tough year on everyone, we can’t fix the world but we can help our neighbors, many of our Conshohocken neighbors are in need of help, due to the corona virus many of our residents are out of work and could use a helping hand. The Colonial Neighborhood Council, (CNC) is currently collecting food and Super Market Gift Cards in an effort to put a Thanksgiving Day meal on their table. Many of these out of work residents have young children and could really, really use the help.
I’ve rarely asked anyone in our community for help but I’m asking now, I’m collecting any and all favors to please donate to the CNC in an effort to support our neighbors. Food and or Gift Cards can be dropped off at the CNC on West Fourth Avenue or by dropping them off at Coll’s Custom Framing at 324 Fayette Street.
Thank you so much, I love Conshohocken for the same reason most of you do, it’s the people in this community, I’ve said it many times over the years, we live in the greatest community in the world, it’s time to show-up friends and give back.
Thanks for checking in with Conshystuff.com and look for more of the great community coverage and history as we round the bend heading for 2021, and HEY, I predict it will be a better year!
Photos Above include:
The P. O. S. of A. building located at West Second Avenue and Fayette Street was built in 1891 by the Patriotic Order Sons of America. Notice that in this 1908 photograph St. Matthews School or church had yet to be built. To the right the Odd Fellows Hall can be seen at the corner of West Second Avenue and Harry Street Years later a garage was constructed in the back yard of Odd Fellows Hall and is currently occupied by Alex Piermani & Son Beverage Distributor.
The West Second Avenue view of the P.O. S. of A. Building taken in 1961 when the Washington Camp No 121 Pa P.O.S. of A. sign was still mounted over the entrance to the upper levels of the building.
A number of residents gathered in front of the P.O. S. of A. building in 1949 when the lower floor of the building was occupied by Jack’s Luncheonette. Residents in the photo from left included Joe Touhey, Kay Walsh Lucey, Mary Burns McTamney and Roger Touhey.
Many residents remember “The Spot” where one could get the town’s best milk shakes after school every day back in the 1960’s. To the left of The Spot was a Justice of the Peace office and a tax preparation office.