Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Red Barn Restaurant

Red Barn ablaze, October 20, 1968
I know that this is outside of the normal range for this blog, and that I don't usually write about topics this modern, but I couldn't help myself. Recent comments from Jack Walker in the Nostalgia Forum about the Red Barn Restaurant got me thinking about it, and I came up with a few things I wanted to share, without the chance of them getting buried in another page. For anyone who is not familiar with it, the Red Barn was a restaurant and cocktail lounge in the 1960's and 70's, located on Kirkwood Highway where the Best Buy is now. Actually, it was two restaurants, each one destined for ruin, the first one spectacularly so. The destruction of the first restaurant is probably what most people remember about the Red Barn today.

The original Red Barn was a dining establishment housed in....a big red barn. (Fortunate naming, huh?) It opened sometime in the early 1960's, but after 1961 (anyone know any more specific than that?). The aerial photo below shows the area that year, without even Farrand Drive yet in place. The barn can clearly be seen, with a drive coming back from Kirkwood Highway. [A side note -- the circular shape with something on its west side, about where Smith's Volkswagon is now, may have been, from what I gather, a trampoline park. Anyone remember this?] Who owned the farm (which probably extended north and west before the highway was built) is unclear, but judging by the 1940 Census, my two guesses are either Norman Klair or Jacob Maclary. They seem to be the first two farmers listed coming what I'm guessing to be west out of Marshallton.

Area around the Red Barn, 1961

Sometime in the early-to-mid-60's, the big, old, red barn was converted into a restaurant. Sadly, it didn't last very long. On the afternoon of Sunday, October 20, 1968, a fire broke out in the attic, over the second floor dining rooms. Mill Creek Fire Company was soon on the scene, as was a crowd of people drawn by the smoke and sirens. Luckily for us, that crowd included my parents, for whom we can thank for the pictures. My Mom especially remembers this, since it happened to have been her birthday. (Don't worry, I don't think they were planning on going there for dinner.) The fire devastated the structure, said in this newspaper account to have been 50 years old. This incarnation of the restaurant never reopened, and the barn was eventually torn down.


Although the red barn was gone, the Red Barn Restaurant was not. A new structure was built and reopened under the same name. Here's where I could use some help, but I don't think the second restaurant was open too much longer than the first. I believe that by the late 70's, it too was shut down. I had always thought that the second building had a fire, too, but I could be wrong about that. I may just be remembering the first fire through my parents. I know that the building stood vacant for a number of years, before being torn down to make way for the Channel Home Center. In the mid 90's, that store was torn down and replaced by the current Best Buy.

20 comments:

  1. Scott.....I can remember a Putt-Putt miniature golf course being there between the Red Barn and where Smith's is now. That would have been mid 60's.

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  2. I also remember the putt putt.In the mid 1960's a strip center was put in and the McDonalds was next to it. The next building on Kirkwood Hwy going east was the Naval Reserve. Old Capitol trail was behind the Red Barn, the Mcdonalds and the Reserve heading toward Marshalton if I remember correctly.

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  3. OK, so the putt-putt was across Farrand Drive from the Red Barn. I'd heard about it, but for some reason I was thinking it was further west, past Limestone Road. The 1968 aerial looks like theres something about where the Wendys and Taco Bell is now, and the Smith's Volkswagon building is there (I remember they had auctions in there in the 70's, like maybe Saturday evenings).

    And M.E., all those buildings are still there. The strip center is now a Starbucks and (as of very recently) a medical place. It had electronics places in it for years, and I remember a video rental store there in the 80's. The McDonalds became a Big and Tall store once the newer one was built in front of Midway shopping center, maybe early 90's?

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    1. In the summer of 1967 between JDHS graduation and leaving for basic training, I worked (delivering furniture) at a furniture store aptly named The Furniture Center that was in that strip shopping center. It was owned by a fellow named Bill Embick and sold "modern" furniture. He also had another store at the Merchandise Mart on Governor Printz Blvd. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time running across the parking lot to McDonalds for cokes and cheeseburgers.kc.

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  4. I remember the second Red Barn fire- I rode my bike from Windermere to gawk at it. I was definitely too young to make that journey in 1968, so I am sure it was the second fire that I remember. I think the red Barn opened again after the second fire but permanently closed a year or two later.

    For the longest time the main tenet at the strip center was a Buten Paint store. Tweeter audio moved into its space in the 1980's.

    The McDonald's was originally a drive-in only; I remember going there after school in the late 1970 and eating my cheeseburger in my car. It was remodeled into a sit-in restaurant in the early 1980's before switching over to the Big and Tall Store (which later was the scene of what is possibly MCH's most notorious unsolved crime.)

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    1. The McDonalds was a drive-in Bill Harris. I worked there between 1967-69 while going to High School. They also had a long tiled bench on both sides of the windows that were always lined with teenagers at nite hanging out during the summer.

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  5. I had completely forgotten about the Red Barn until I read your post. I recall the fire too. I think the second Red Barn sat empty for some time before being torn down.

    A little off topic but I also remember when W. F.(?) Grant's Department Store in Midway Shopping center burnt down. No idea of the date on that one. We could see the flames from the second story of our house on Milltown Road.

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    1. It was around 1960 I believe.

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  6. Vic-
    I also have some vague memories of the WT Grant fire. The fire at Hobby House is the event at Midway Shopping Center that I recall most vividly.

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    1. I believe that I was in seventh grade at Stanton Jr High when the Grants store went up in flames (1962). I didn't think about the jobs that were lost, but felt terrible about the fish, turtles, alligators, etc that perished in the pet department.kc.

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    2. Hmm, I guess my childhood memories go back further than I thought- I would have been about 3 years old in 1962 and as I said, I have some faint memories of that fire. I better remember a big celebration at Grants with several spot lights- perhaps this was the reopening of the store after the fire.

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    3. W.T. Grants department store at Midway Shopping Center had a terrible fire on October 12, 1961.

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    4. I remember my parents telling me the debris from the Grants fire was dumped in a old dump that was located directly across from the Delaware Park entrance on Rt 7. I would have been 5 years old at the time of the fire in 1961.

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  7. OK, you caught me! I'll admit that I was an underage drinker at the Red Barn back in the early seventies. For a couple of years it was one of the hottest spots around (no pun intented). Red Barn, Deer Park, Stone Baloon, then on to the Anvil Inn near Kennett. The Red Barn had a minimal cover charge and if you looked liked you 15 or so, you were in!

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  8. there was a barn on limestone rd where limestone Medical is now 1941 limestone rd. who owned that one ...I remember it caught fire at night and lit up the sky back in the mid 70's..also any info on the Klair property off of old limestone rd and milltown there are some historic houses along that stretch of road.hopefully it wont get plowed under and another shopping center pops up

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    1. I recall a produce market at that 1941 address in the 70's. Bought a lot of corn, peaches and strawberries there. The family that owned that property had an Italian name--Terranova maybe?

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    2. You are correct - their name was Terranova.kc.

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    3. There was another Farm on McKennans Church Road which now is Cynwyd Club Apartments. That was Walkers, before the Sherwood Park II . They had corn and Strawberries. Up the road was Lora Little Elementary school.

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    4. My mother's parents farm home was right in the middle of what is the intersection of Milltown and Limestone Roads. Large red barn associated with it. State took the house and barn on the 1st enlarging of Limestone Road in the 60s. Land of Total Wine, Valero, 1/2 of Cynwyd Club, and the Mealey property were mom's parents. Limestone Road used to be a rural road were the southbound shoulder currently is. Those segments of Limestone and Milltown were my mother's parents property basically condemned and taken for pennies of what they were worth for the widening of Limestone. The Klair farm was to the west, the Walkers to the east.

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    5. I remember Mrs Timmons. She lived with a daughter in an older house just about where the 1st building of Cynwyd is off of Sherwood 2. I think she worked at Lora Little. Real nice lady. One day the house was there, the next it was gone. As a kid, I thought that was pretty weird.

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