Old Original Bookbinder's
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The restaurant was decorated with bas-reliefs of dead U.S. Presidents on its stained-glass facade and the Gettysburg Address written in bronze near the front door. The lobby held the world’s largest indoor lobster tank; it could accommodate 350 lobsters. The President’s Room was preserved to its original condition; it included photographs of the first 42 U.S. presidents on its walls. A photograph of Frank Sinatra appeared over his regular booth, #25.
The restaurant's history can be traced to the oyster saloon opened in 1893 on Fifth Street near South Street by Dutch-Jewish immigrant Samuel Bookbinder. In 1898, Bookbinder moved it to Second and Walnut Streets to be closer to the docks.
The restaurant left the family in the 1930s when it was bequeathed to the Jewish Federated Charities. John M. Taxin, the last owner's grandson, bought it with partners Hyman B. Sichel and Jimmy Retana in 1945, according to city records. A few years later, after buying out the partners, Taxin added "Old Original" to differentiate it from Bookbinders Seafood House, which two of Samuel Bookbinder's grandsons opened in 1935 on 15th Street near Locust. The 15th Street restaurant closed in 2004; it is now an Applebee's.
With the help of public relations men during World War II and the Korean War, when young men were sworn into the service at the Customs House a block away, Taxin offered free lunches to the recruits, who spread the word about the offer. Taxin, a philanthropist, also promoted the myth that the restaurant's origin was 1865. Until he retired in the 1980s, he ran Bookbinder's with his son, Albert Taxin.
Albert Taxin died of a brain tumor in 1993, and his son, John E., took it over with Albert's sister, Sandy. John M. Taxin died in 1997 at age 90.
John E. Taxin closed it just after New Year's Day 2002. After a $4.5-million renovation that added condominiums, a downsized version opened in early 2005. A bankruptcy filing came less than 16 months later. Among the main creditors were Renaissance Properties, its landlord, Royal Bank, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, a private, nonprofit organization founded by the city, and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to promote economic development, was owed about $650,000 from its $800,000 loan.
Taxin also had a majority stake in the Bookbinder's location in Richmond, Va, which was not part of the bankruptcy. Bookbinder's also licenses its name to a line of canned foods.
In 2006, the restaurant filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. At a hearing on April 29, 2009, Judge Eric L. Frank agreed with most creditors and the U.S. trustee that converting the case to Chapter 7 - liquidating its assets under court supervision - would not be productive because of the high administrative costs.
Old Original Bookbinder's bankruptcy petition was dismissed on April 29, 2009. Creditors, owed about $1.8 million, had to find a way outside of U.S. Bankruptcy Court to seek reimbursement from owners John E. Taxin and his aunt Sandy Taxin. In April 2009, John Taxin handed over the keys to the Old City landmark at 125 Walnut St., which closed as he tried to find someone to save it. Albert A. Ciardi III, Bookbinder's bankruptcy attorney, said in May 2009 that two interested parties had come forward in the previous month, but that no sale had taken place.
The historical location reopened on January 9th, 2015, by Chef Jose Garces and the Garces Group. Renamed The Olde Bar, the restaurant has been transformed into a mix of seafood saloon and private catering space. The Bookbinder's name and much of the historical woodwork and decor remain and have been restored.
- Richmond, Virginia
- Bookbinders (2007). "Old Original Bookbinders: Richmond, VA". Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- Richmond, Virginia location official website
- Manufacturer of Old Original Bookbinders soups, seasoning & breadcrumbs