clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Schwarzwald Inn: Sinatra, Belafonte and Horne Partied Here

New, 1 comment

The building at 5535 North Second Street looks rather humdrum now, but it was once a celebrity attraction. Named the Schwarzwald Inn, the building was a restaurant and gathering place for Philadelphians across the socioeconomic spectrum, as well as famous folks who came to town. Like Center City's Bookbinders, it was part of another age in Philadelphia, and while it wouldn't even be able to blush in Ilona Keller's direction now, it was once "the in place for the in crowd," according to blogger Dan Leo, who's done a hilarious job of chronicling some of the Inn's history in a tongue-in-cheek series called "Legends of the Schwarzwald." While we can't vouch for its historical authenticity, we have a feeling it gets the spirit of the place right.

The 500-seat restaurant was furnished with walls of cuckoo clocks and other traditional German and Swiss decorations. It was the kind of place where a longtime (30-plus years) hostess, Bertha Autenrieth, became a familiar Philadelphia face. In Ralph Cipriano's Inquirer article on Autenrieth after her death, he quoted her son as saying, "It's surprising how often we'd go somewhere and someone would come up to her and say, 'You look familiar; where do I know you from?' " her son said. ''All you had to do is mention Second and Olney."

Members of the Olney Facebook group remembered it more as a neighborhood spot than as a glamorous gathering place for celebs. Susan M. says, "They served wonderful German meals with authentic food and we always looked forward to their Christmas tree on the roof. It was the place to go in Olney for business dinners and Friday night dinner dates." Others remember it as the place to go after funerals, your first communion, grade school graduations and for football banquets.

The building as is has a parking lot and liquor license. The huge space includes three bars, two banquet rooms and a second floor with eight one-bedroom apartments. All for $850,000.
· Listing: 5535-41 N. Second St. [Elfant Wissahickon]