A few years ago, I asked the then-mayor of Lakewood to suggest the worst dive in his city. His answer came back quickly: Hart's Corner Bar & Restaurant, where one customer had bitten another customer's ear the weekend before. Sold! I visited Hart's, right on the corner of Morrison Road and South Sheridan, and not only had a lovely time, but was charmed by the place, then touted as Lakewood's oldest business, one that had morphed from a root-beer stand to a roadhouse to a restaurant over its ninety years.
Here's the spot's history, courtesy Jefferson County Planning & Zoning:
One of the stops made by stagecoaches, wagons and travelers on horseback was the Old Store's place, Westfield Farm, on the southwest corner of the Sheridan-Mississippi intersection. Because this primitive trail was one of the early routes into present day Lakewood, it gave the intersection of South Sheridan and West Mississippi historical significance.
In 1908, Leo Hart and Lena Fischer married and in the early 1920s they bought property on the north side of Morrison Road and South Sheridan Blvd. Hart turned the old root beer stand into a small restaurant and called it Hart's Corner. Built in 1924, this vernacular wood frame structure had additions added on until 1950. The bar and restaurant is an irregular plan, 56' long and 48' wide, with a hipped roof.
Deciding to cater to the cars as well as the motorists, Hart's installed four gas pumps in front of the eatery around 1926. By 1929 he was earning a comfortable living and bought 90 acres of land which extend south to Louisiana Avenue to build a brick house. He also put up a grocery store across from his restaurant, with eight cabins with garages for the tourist trade. These later were expanded to 16. Hart also had a 1,000 foot deep well drilled which supplied his home and business with pure water....Leo Hart died in 1939 and Tommy Hart operated the family business until his death in 1978.
After that, Hart's Corner enjoyed a fifteen-year run as a family restaurant, but then went through an assortment of managers and owners. By the early 2010s, it was the source of some sordid stories. Ear-biting wasn't the only crime: In early 2014, gangs were running drugs there when not busy attempting to kill each other.
And that August, the owner surrendered the Hart's liquor license.
Lately there's been renewed interest in the historic spot; a brewer was considering it as a location for a new craft brewery. But he was too late to the party: There's now a sign on the old roadhouse noting that the Diaz family has requested that a new liquor license be granted for 5201 West Mississippi Avenue, which would be transformed into Mariscos El Picudo.
Which means that Lakewood's oldest business could soon be back in business, starting the next chapter of its colorful history.
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