Frank Sinatra’s dwindling tourist turf in Hoboken
on March 31, 2010 at 2:00 PM, updated March 31, 2010 at 5:12 PM
Hoboken Now reader Richard Weisman posed a good question we felt compelled to answer publicly. He wrote: My mom is a big fan of Frank Sinatra and we wanted to visit the house he lived in when he was in Hoboken. Where is the house located? Also, any other Frank Sinatra highlights in Hoboken?
From The Star-Ledger in 1998: Back in Hoboken, no tour buses go past 415 Monroe St., where Sinatra grew up. That house is long gone, a ghost of Hoboken’s past, like Sinatra himself. There is only a brick arch, built a few years ago by some longtime fans. The Hoboken Sinatra, cocky and raffish, who got his big break with the Tommy Dorsey Band, doesn’t exist anymore.
A bronze star has been embedded in the sidewalk since 1996 and the brick arch still exists. In 2001, Ed Shirak, co-owner of Lepore s Home Made Chocolate and author of Sinatra book Our Way, put $18,000 into a Sinatra museum at that spot – From Here to Eternity: The Museum. The museum closed after five years because it became too much of a burden to maintain.
The museum sign on Monroe, however, is still there, but the best way to get a tour of Sinatra sites in Hoboken is to head to Lepore s, 537 Garden St. Lepore s co-owner Mario Lepore said they still offer guided tours upon request. On average, they give about two tours a month in the spring, summer and fall, he said.
But the tour guides are expecting some unusual participants this summer. A group of 50 people is coming from Pennsylvania in June. An Irish documentary crew is flying in from Dublin in late May to explore how Sinatra s legacy is preserved in modern-day Hoboken, Lepore said.
Lepore s sells Sinatra s favorite chocolate chocolate-covered apricots. The shop also has rare letters written by Sinatra and his wife Barbara.
Hoboken Historical Museum sells Sinatra button and magnets and, in years past, has featured exhibits that paid homage to Hoboken s musical traditions. But the museum s director Robert Foster admits Sinatra-related tourist opportunities are scant.
It s a little dry, said Foster. It s hard for people to maintain a site.
A walking tour map can be purchased at the museum for $1. It ll take you to 23 sites (mostly outdoors), such as Sinatra s three residences 415 Monroe St., 841 Garden St., and 703 Park Ave. as well as AJ Demarest Middle School and the Union Club. Sinatra disciples can check out Dom s Bakery, 506 Grand St., where Sinatra would order bread even when he was living in Beverly Hills, said Foster.
As for restaurants, Piccolo s, 92 Clinton St., has a back room shrine devoted to the singer, and Leo s Grandevous, 200 Grand St., has a jukebox of Sinatra tunes and a collection of photos on the wall.
Frank Sinatra Park, built in 1998, has served as a soccer field overlooking Manhattan from across the river. The pier may receive a $12 million renovation to repair the deterioration caused by wood-eating mollusks.
Lepore said people continue to leave flowers and the occasional Jack Daniels bottle on Sinatra s star on Monroe Street in December. But Hoboken just doesn t canonize Ol Blue Eyes like it used to.
Most of the people from out of town appreciate it more because it s unique to them, Lepore said. He s the greatest singer in American history and he was born in Hoboken, so we want to keep his memory alive in his birthplace. We try to keep it going.
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