Joseph and Mary Allgair
As Sayreville's population grew in the last decades of the nineteenth century with the expansion of the Sayre & Fisher brick works and various other industries, local halls gained prominence as the most popular and important social gathering spots for the town’s growing population. The Rohde, Miller, and Allgair Hotels were used for everything from weddings to political meetings, though the Allgair Hotel was certainly the most important of these public places. It boasted both a summer hall and a winter hall, and during the warm summer months, the outdoor pavilion was perhaps the most popular social gathering place in town. Here, residents could drink the locally bottled beers and dance to the music of the town’s musicians. Often, the dances would have a distinctly “Old World” feel, as the clay and brick industries operating throughout Sayreville largely employed immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and Eastern Europe. In the Spring of 1884, Joseph Allgair hosted the first of many Township Committee meetings at his hotel. This marked Allgair’s first show of interest in local politics, an interest which he maintained for the next quarter of a century, eventually serving as both Committeeman and County Freeholder. Township Committee meetings continued to be held at Allgair’s Hotel until a new Town Hall was completed in 1909.
Sanborn Insurance map showing Allgair's Hotel, 1904
Color postcard showing Allgair's Hotel on Main Street
Former site of Allgair's Hotel
"The weddings were great. If you got married, you had the night before the wedding, then you had the day of the wedding, and then the day after the wedding. Poprawiny, the day after the wedding. Allgair’s on Main Street in Sayreville when I was five, six, seven, eight years old was where the weddings were held.
Next to the post office it was a big building with a hall in the back. Nietubitz’s came later. When I was little it was Allgair’s, later on it became Nietubitz’s, and then P&A in South River. But the weddings were huge so that the night before when they were getting everything ready everybody went to the place where everything was gotten ready. Then the wedding, you went there. Then because there was food left over, remember now, you did not have refrigeration like you have now, because there was food left over you went back the next day because you had all this food that you bought that wasn’t used up. So a wedding became a three-day affair.
In those days when we went to the wedding when you got to the door, at the Polish weddings, when you got to the door, the guy playing the accordion and the guy playing the saxophone would play a particular song and the bride and groom would come over a greet you and a guy would come with a shot, everybody would have a shot and you would throw some money in the till and you would kiss the bride after you would see them. When everybody came in there was a particular song they played. I’m not the musician one but there was a particular song they played. And there was always a local orchestra that was playing and the local soda guy made the soda and the local beer guy made the beer. Everything tied into everything else.
I remember I used to love to go to the wedding when I was a little kid because always, on the second night, some guy would get drunk and get in a fight with somebody else and you get to see a fight. Plus, there was always a big washtub full of soda bottles and you would go take as much soda as you wanted. Weddings were a lot of fun. My father was one of the best Polka dancers here in those days. And what they would do on the wedding night, later on in the evening, they would have a contest between the band and the dancers. The band would start to play the polkas and would keep playing the polkas and the dancers would dance. And my father would have two or three partners lined up because he would always want to win. So he would dance, and dance, and dance, until the guy playing the clarinet would run out of wind and that would be the end of it. Or the guy dancing would run out of wind and that would be the end of it. That was a big thing at the end of them. It was a big social occasion where everybody got to talk to everybody. There was much more drinking than there is now, I think. But it was all shot and beer type of stuff."