When you enter the doors of Bender’s Tavern, you are but following in the footsteps of a multitude of others who were hungry in body and spirit and came to be fed and partake of the hospitality of the tavern. From far and wide; out of the heat and cold, storms and fine weather: day and night they came: some happy and full of energy, others tired and weary; some in love, and those old and wise; some strong, others weak; flush with victory and success in efforts of physical prowess or battles in courts of law or the front lines of business and commerce, others weary from the toil of healing the sick and succor of mankind.
For over 95 long years these rooms have witnessed this procession of men and woman, and the old marble and paneled oak walls hold all the memories of the past: the echoes of shouts of acclaim for the victorious, as glasses are raised on high; the secrets of hushed voices of lovers, and the remembrance of the soft touch of their hands across the table; the oldster’ words of legal strategy is mapped and political plans are laid; the political opinions, voiced in louder tones; the bold and aggressive words of those in business, as future growth and destiny are designed; and the recounting of medical tales, as joys and sorrows of doctors and nurses are shared.
Despite a tragic fire in January 1988, Bender’s Tavern continues to be the gathering place for area residents and visitors. The beauty of the old building remains in the distinctive tiger oak paneling, priceless marble, and tin ceilings which survived the blaze.
All this from the past has created the Bender’s heritage; and today, the “spirit of Bender’s” is carried on under the guidance of the fourth generation of the Jacob family. The same memorable and satisfying blend of food, drink, and hospitality for the nourishment of body and soul can still be found within the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Canton’s oldest and finest restaurant and tavern.
What’s the story with Bender’s and Professional Football?
Often this question comes up within conversations at the restaurant. As many regulars to the restaurant will tell you, the first organizational meeting for what later became the NFL was held in Canton, Ohio, at the Jordan and Hupmobile automobile showroom in 1920. Meetings to persuade the NFL to locate the Hall of Fame in Canton also took place in Canton (1962).
What the history books won’t tell you is where those meetings carried on at…Bender’s Tavern. There was a room in the upstairs part of the restaurant that served for a great meeting and drinking spot. In the early days, Jim Thorpe was known to frequent the bar at Bender’s. Like many business deals and great ideas throughout the century in Canton, Bender’s served as one of the great places to meet. If only we were there to hear those conversations!