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Sports Attic Building Was Full of History

Current and former owners watched on Friday as the Sports Attic in Brentwood burned.

In 1926, Mary Engelhard Van Cleave’s parents bought the building that later became the .

Van Cleave, who with two of her daughters watched the , was born on the second floor a year after her parents' purchase. Back then, the building was home to a tavern called Engelhard’s and Manchester Road was a dirt road.

“I loved the tavern business. It was so much fun,” she said. “My dad was bootlegging first. It was just a little bitty building." She said that little building was later moved to Hanley and Brentwood to become an ice cream stand.

She bought the place with her husband, John Van Cleave ("Van"), who tended the bar for her dad, Fred Engelhard. They ran it until 1974.

“We had dinners for the Lions Club, the dining room would be on the first floor, and then they’d go down to the rathskeller and have their meeting.” That basement bar is now in Van Cleave’s house on Cecelia Avenue.

Van Cleave's four daughters grew up in the home above the tavern.

One of them, Judy Chiodini, reflected on life above Engelhard's. 

She and her sisters never had a hard time finding a date when they told boyfriends they lived above the local tavern, she said.

“The hard thing was, when you had a new boyfriend, and you’d say there’s three doors (to the building), and invariably they’d go into the tavern door,” she said.

“I had my first kiss at that front door,” Chiodini said.

Her sister, Bonnei Luttbeg, said the four sisters were born in consecutive years, so when they were 14, 15, 16 and 17-years-old they were all dating at the same time.

"We had designated spots to sit with our boyfriend, there were so many of us," she said.

Jan Stapf's husband, Charlie, tended bar for Van Cleave in the 1950s and 60s. She was there with Van Cleave and her daughters on Friday morning.

“For Halloween, they’d set up a long table for us in the back, and the parents would all stand there and drink, and all of us kids would eat popcorn and peanuts after we trick-or-treated," she said. "We got a soda from the bar. That was a big deal.”

Chris (Hutsell) Plattner April 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I remember the times when Walt Brady, caretaker for the Clydesdales, would bring one of the Clydesdales into the bar. And so many other good memories of thr St. Mary Magdalen parents from my childhood years meeting there & the kids would play: it was such a great family-friendly place.
Captain April 19, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I seem to recall that at one point in the 1980's, the Brentwood Inn was owned by Ken Brier who also owned the Dunkin Donuts in Kirkwood on Manchester Rd. near the middle school.
Captain April 19, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Oh, that was the original Dunkin Donuts in Kirkwood which is now a Pasta House Express location......not to be confused with the new Dunkin on Kirkwood Rd.
Doug Miner April 19, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I was also told that John Van Cleave made hossenfeffer to serve on New Year's Day. He hunted the rabbits, and his daughter cleaned them. The whole place smelled like rabbits soaking in brine the week between Christmas and New Year's.
Charlie September 22, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I was wondering if someone out there has any stuff from the old tavern that they would like to donate, my grandma would tell me so many stories about the place, I also worked there for a brief time and I am now a bartender at hacienda(I think that's why we talked about it a lot). I loved my grandma very much and will miss her!

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