The delicious baked goods and primo cappuccino of Mama's Boy are far from being odd, but its location happens to sit upon the ghost of an oddity - The Phoenicia Hotel. Built in the 19th century, the historic Phoenicia Hotel was a haunt of Babe Ruth, Lee Marvin, and the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz. According to one legend, the Dutchman had lunch at the Phoenicia Hotel on October 23, 1935. Afterward, to hide his millions from the Feds, he buried his loot in an iron case somewhere in the vicinity. That night, he made his way to an eatery in Newark, where he was assassinated by henchmen sent by Lucky Luciano. The location of the treasure went to his grave and hopeful hunters have been coming to Phoenicia ever since to unearth it. For a while, one of the proprietors of the hotel allowed his customers to dig on the property, just as long as they signed a waiver to split whatever was found. That was abruptly stopped when someone showed up with a backhoe.
In 2007, a fire destroyed the landmark hotel.
Ah, the Phoenicia Hotel and its colorful bar scene! I have fond memories of grooving to Mario's one-man band, while a man I dubbed Greg (I swear he was the reincarnation of Gregory Peck!) always stood silently at the end of the bar, chewing on a toothpick, thumbs in his belt loops, as if he just fell out of a John Ford western. One night before closing, the beautiful, tattooed bartender belted out an a capella version of "Me and Bobby Magee" that I'm sure had Janis smiling down from a heavenly mountain in the sky, and during the Eastern grid blackout of 2003, warm beer was served by candlelight at the bar.
After the fire, the empty charred shell of the hotel sat dormant for a long time. Finally it was razed, leaving a huge lot with a giant mound of rubble in the middle. It stayed an eyesore for what felt like an eternity. One day while walking through town, I felt compelled to sift through the debris - I wanted a memento! I hopped over the barrier tape and dug around while my boyfriend pretended to have no idea who the crazy lady was. Something in the ruins was calling to me...a
Not quite the lost treasure of Dutch Schultz, but something more precious - a sharpied, river rock reminder of the happy times spent at the Phoenicia Hotel.