The Corner Where Hagler's Once Stood
A Journey into Oradell, New Jersey
I read recently how they have put up a plaque on Ridgewood Avenue near the corner of Kinderkamack to recall the now departed but still beloved Hagler’s, a longtime mainstay in town.
It was one of those places that one got attached to. It was quirky and one of a kind – structures they don’t build anymore.
It was also a place with a history. The brick building was long known as a local hangout. Its bar, mural and food were known to generations.
The site of what now is a new bank was diner was there before the bar/restaurant that old-timers now miss. Our historian friends at the Oradell Library tell us that the original diner was actually a converted diner car from a railway. As was the origin of many early diners – before the stainless steel era, when a rail dining car was no longer fit for service, it was often employed as a cheap restaurant at a (stationary) location such as the corner of Kinderkamack Road and Ridgewood Avenue in Oradell.
John Hagler built Oradell’s first diner during Prohibition. For some time Hagler had been operating a “lunch truck’ on the northwest corner of Ridgewood and Kinderkamack. It, in fact, had become so popular, especially among truck drivers along Kinderkamack Road, that Hagler decided to build the now familiar and cherished building on the opposite corner. When Prohibition ended, Hagler then was at liberty to add the adjoining tavern.
Even before entering into the lunch and “beverage” business, Hagler had been a fixture in town. Mrs.Hagler had run the candy concession in a drugstore down the street. When that drugstore closed, she opened a candy store across the street on Kinderkmack Road.
As an eatery, Hagler’s long had a reputation for famous local culinary dish – hassenpeffer, a venison stew.
Hagler was a gamesman as well as an expert cook. This was also an area where game was plentiful.But as it was illegal to sell game such as venison, the hassenpeffer was available by invitation only and without charge to his best friends.
Each year, Hagler would treat the caught meat and give it away to neighbors, making the preparation and consumption venison stew and other dishes annual occasions around town.
Hagler died in 1935, but his family carried on the business. During World War II, sons George and Joseph weresent into the service, so Mrs. Hagler and two daughters held the business together.
After the War, the sons helped until Mom was no longer able to do so (1952). By that time, venison was no longer readily available locally. But over time, the Hagler legend would adapt but stay strong for decades to come.
For some time, locals were concerned about the Hagler’s site. For while it served up some decent Italian food as Felice’s restaurant. Then, sitting empty, it was subject to litigation about a proposed Walgreen’s. At the end of the day, though the attempt to destroy the Hagler’s building for a Walgreen’s succeeded, in the end, the real estate was just too valuable.
Progress could not be stopped any longer.
They tell us that the folks at the bank are very nice and trying to be good neighbors. Still, we temain partial to the old place. It was a simple but a building with a lot of character. And, it had stories to tell for those who want to hear them.
Even with the building gone those stories survive.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Source Materials - Biography of A Borough: Oradell (1969), by IrvingCrump; Oradell Centennial; 1894-1994…..Thanks to Borough Historian Frank Vierling for hisguidance. And, a special thank you to Borough Archivist, George Carter for his ear, his supportgenerally and in particular his help in securing historic pictures from the Borough/LibraryCollection….. The Archives, located at the Oradell Public Library, are open to the public the firstFriday afternoon of the month