400 Jasper Street

The bar at 400 Jasper Street, the corner of South 4th and Jasper Street, went by a number of names over the years. During the lat3 1890s and early 1890s the building housed a grocery store, with August W. Tegtmeier listed in the 1887-1888 Camden City Directory, and Charles and Mary Barrett in the 1890-1891 edition. By the time of World War I, the building was being used as a bar, with Samuel Rosenberg as the proprietor in the years 1918 through at least 1921. Rosenberg would later run a different bar at 575 Van Hook Street

According to the 1927 Camden City Directory Walter Evanuk was the proprietor by that year. The previous year he was operating the saloon at 629 Ferry Avenue, which was next owned by Michael Brown. Walter Evanuk lived with his wife, Susanna, at 436 Jasper Street. The bar was licensed and operating as Walter's Cafe in the late 1930s. Walter Evanuk operated the bar into the mid 1940s, and is listed in the City Directories for 1928, 1920, 1931, 1940, and 1943. 

 According to the 1947 Camden City Directory, the bar was then called the Zenie Cafe, and was  operated by Tony and Zenie Stepanuk, who lived in the house next door at 402 Jasper Street.

By 1959 the bar was again known as Walter's Cafe. Walter Evanuk apparently was still involved in the bar, and the Evanuk family was still at 436 Jasper Street. Mr. Evanuk passed away in February of 1967 at the age of 72, survived by his wife, who died in April of 1994. The bar was known as Walter's Cafe through at least 1964.

The 1966 Bell Telephone lists it as the Jasper Cafe, and in 1970 the listing reads Jasper Tavern. In the late 1970s the bar went under the name of Hughie's Tavern

In 2003 the bar at 400 Jasper Street and the house at 402 stood unoccupied, and the buildings are both boarded up. In 2008 the bar and the homes at 402 and 404 Jasper Street were purchased and razed, and, under the guidance of Walt Evanuk's grandson, playwright Joseph Paprzycki, a new structure was built, a theater, which has been the home of the South Camden Theater Company since 2010.   

Walter's Cafe - 400 Jasper Street - February 2003

Camden Courier-Post - February 4, 2006

Bar ready for change of scenery

Courier-Post Staff

Rain pours through the roof now, and the rotted wood floor, strewn with empty vodka bottles and newspapers, is soft underfoot.

But after the Feb. 23 Camden City Council meeting, the nonprofit group Heart of Camden plans to begin transforming heaps of trash into new hope for the South Camden neighborhood.

At that meeting, the council is expected to permit the Camden Redevelopment Agency to take ownership of the dilapidated old tavern at 4th and Jasper streets. The property, recently appraised at $8,000, will then be sold to Heart of Camden, said the nonprofit's executive director, Helene Pierson.

For playwright Joseph M. Paprzycki, it is a dream come true.

His grandfather, Walt Evanuk, once owned the long-vacant tavern. Paprzycki has written about it in his play, Last Rites. And now it will serve as the home for Paprzycki's fledgling South Camden Theatre Company.

"Right now we have a dead corner with a boarded-up building. Within a year, hopefully, it will become a place of light and art. And not just for the theater company but for the neighborhood, the Sacred Heart School and everyone else," said Paprzycki.

"Where some people see boarded-up buildings, we see beauty," said Paprzycki, 48, of Gloucester City.

Pierson expects construction on a 99-seat theater to begin in the summer, with the first play to be staged in 2007.

More than 500 school children from Sacred Heart School and the nearby Creative Arts High School will be able to use the building for performances of their own, she said.

Three Camden schoolchildren -- Julian Jaquez, 10; Angela Cosme, 13; and her sister, Crystal Cosme, 8 -- toured the decrepit building on Friday.

"I like being an actor. I like being the center of attention," said Angela Cosme.

Monsignor Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, said he hopes the new theater will help many local children and adults become interested in the arts.

"There are wonderful actors and actresses walking around this neighborhood who never had a chance to get onstage," he said.

Camden Courier-Post - February 4, 2006

Left: Msgr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, tours a vacant Camden tavern with playwright Joseph M. Paprzycki (right). The men are eager to transform the building into a theater. 

Below: "I like being an actor,' said Angela Cosme, 13, who hopes to perform in the new theater, once a vacant building is transformed.