Egg Harbor Buys Former Lena’s Building for Library

Lena’s Sip and Chat in the 1980s. Photo Courtesy of the Egg Harbor Historical Society.

The long line of short-lived taverns that have called the old Lena’s Sip and Chat tavern home since Lena Schultz sold it in 1995 has ended.

On Monday the Village of Egg Harbor paid $350,000 to the Robert Cowles family to buy the old tavern in downtown Egg Harbor, where it plans to construct an expanded library and public space.

The 1.23-acre property was most recently home to the Jersey Shore Pub. The village plans to demolish the bar to construct a new building that will house the village library, public restrooms, a Niagara Escarpment interpretive center, visitor center and other community services.

The bar in the 1950s. Photo Courtesy of the Egg Harbor Historical Society.

“This is the optimum location we sought for an exciting ‘third space’ that offers an interactive social hub for all village residents and visitors,” said Village President Nancy Fisher.

Fisher said the project will be funded through a public and private partnership, including a capital campaign, though she said it was too early to say how much of the cost to build the new center will come from public dollars. Though the building will be demolished this spring, she said the village is not rushing to break ground on the new center.

“We are actively seeking input from the public on what they would like to see out of the project to create a space they will love,” Fisher said.

Lena Schultz, talking to friends as they sip and chat. Photo Courtesy of the Egg Harbor Historical Society.

The property is currently assessed at $413,000. The land itself is assessed at $134,300. Fisher said the sellers, the Cowles family, gave the village considerations on the price of the property, so when the new building is constructed it will be known as the Robert L. Cowles, Jr. and Margaret A. Cowles Center.

This is not the first, nor the largest, expenditure on land or public facilities by the village in recent years. In 2007 the village paid $1.6 million for the Troup property adjacent to the public beach. That purchase allowed the village to expand the beach considerably. In 2010 the village opened its new marina, which came at a cost of $6.5 million.

Fisher said this purchase, paid for with borrowing from the Bureau of Public Land, will raise property taxes in the village 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

“We’re still well under our borrowing limit,” Fisher said. “We still are in excellent financial shape. If we weren’t we would not have moved ahead.”

The building was built by Tom Carmody in 1935 and was run by Murphy Moore for eight years. Schultz and her first husband Donald Giesseman bought the bar in 1943, when they named it Don’s Bar. Giesseman died in 1949, but Schultz and her children continued to run the tavern for the next 52 years, changing the name to Lena’s Sip and Chat in the late 1960s. Schultz died in 1997. In the years since, the pub has been named Salmon Eddy’s, The 19th Hole, O’Leary’s, Bub’s Pub, John Henry’s, and finally The Jersey Shore.

Fisher said the board did not tour the building before deciding to demolish it, and there was no consideration given to keeping it, as “Old does not equate to historical,” she said. “There are historically significant buildings in Egg Harbor, but I do not believe this mansard-roofed 1930s-era structure is one of them.”

“It wouldn’t serve the purposes of creating a modern community center,” she said. “Trying to rehab a building whose systems are 80 years old with the wiring and water we need would be extremely difficult.”

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