Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Prohibition Era in Pelham: Another Speakeasy Raided

Congress implemented the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by enacting The National Prohibition Act of 1919, also known as the Volstead Act. The law became effective, along with the Eighteenth Amendment, on January 16, 1920.  

Labeled the "noble experiment" by Herbert Hoover, Prohibition became the law of the land.  It was, however, a law meant to be broken.  The "noble experiment" became the "failed experiment."  Private bootleggers and speakeasies sprang up everywhere to meet the seemingly insatiable desire for alcoholic beverages.  Pelham had its share of bootleggers, moonshiners and speakeasies.  

I have written before of bootleggers, moonshiners, speakeasies, Prohibition and earlier local prohibition movements in Pelham before national Prohibition.  See:

Tue., Feb. 18, 2014:  Pelham Speakeasies and Moonshiners - Prohibition in Pelham: The Feds Raid the Moreau Pharmacy in Pelham Manor in 1922.

Thu., Feb. 07, 2008:  Village Elections in Pelham in 1900 - New York Athletic Club Members Campaign Against the Prohibition Ticket in Pelham Manor.

Thu., Jan. 12, 2006:  The Beer Battle of 1933.

Thu., Aug. 11, 2005:  How Dry I Am: Pelham Goes Dry in the 1890s and Travers Island Is At the Center of a Storm

Bell, Blake A., The Prohibition Era in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 25, June 18, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Stills Discovered by Pelham Manor Police During Prohibition.
From the February 3, 1928 Issue of The Pelham Sun.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog details a raid on a speakeasy located at 6 First Street in the Village of North Pelham on Tuesday, July 14, 1931.  The building, which no longer exists, included a store area, a basement and a garage in the rear of the building.

Several days before the raid, the building was purchased by "a prominent New Rochelle bootlegger" who immediately began a "remodeling" of the store area and installed a bar.  On Sunday, July 12, 1931, the establishment opened for business as a speakeasy tucked away near the end of First Street, close to the Hutchinson River.

Within two days, Village of North Pelham Police obtained warrants to search the store area, the cellar and the garage in the rear of the building.  They burst into the speakeasy during the afternoon of Tuesday, July 14, 1931, only two days after the speakeasy first opened.  There they found a bartender standing behind an empty bar, talking with an unidentified man.  

Police arrested the bartender, a New Rochelle resident.  They released the unidentified man who was also there.  Though the bar was empty of liquor, the cellar and the garage in the rear of the building were not.  In the cellar, police found barrels of liquor.  In a cabinet in the garage, police found three quarts of gin, 14 quarts of scotch and rye whiskies and eight quarts of wine.

Though the liquor was confiscated and the speakeasy was shut down, Village trustees later acknowledged that the speakeasy was back up and running the same day, "within one hour after the raid."  Prohibition, it seems, was a law meant to be broken. . . . 

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Illicit Beverages Confiscated; Barkeeper Held on Charge of Violating Prohibition Law

Two days after it opened for business, North Pelham police officers, led by a Federal officer, raided a speakeasy at No. 6, First street, North Pelham, on Tuesday afternoon.  One man was arrested and a quantity of alleged liquor was confiscated.  Chief of Police Michael Fitzpatrick, Sgt. James A Whalen and Federal officer R.G. Grant conducted the raid.  

The prisoner, whom police say was the bartender in the establishment, gave his name and address as Nicholas Valentine, of No. 27 Webster avenue, New Rochelle.  He was held in bail of $500 on a charge of liquor possession.  All attempts by Chief Fitzpatrick to secure a judge in order to have Valentine arraigned and released on the presentation of bail bond were fruitless and he was confined in the North Pelham lockup for the night.  He was bailed out at midnight and was taken to Federal court in New York City Wednesday morning for arraignment before a Federal commissioner.

Valentine was arraigned Wednesday morning before U.S. Commissioner Garrett W. Cotter in the 

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Federal Building in New York City and released in bail of $500 for a hearing on July 28.

In addition to the barrelled stock found in the cellar, police confiscated 25 quarts of alleged liquors as follows:  three quarts of gin, 14 quarts of scotch and rye whiskies and eight quarts of wine.  

In the building itself, the store portion of which had been remodeled and a bar installed, police found no liquor but Valentine was behind the bar talking with another man whom police released after questioning.  

The cache of confiscated beverages was found in a cabinet in the garage at the rear of the premises.  The warrant which covered the search of the building also included the garage.

This establishment was opened on Sunday and according to report was sold several days ago to a prominent New Rochelle bootlegger.

Tuesday's raid was the first to be made in North Pelham in nearly thre years, the last taking place in 1929, when the local police under the leadership of Chief Fitzpatrick, cooperating with a raiding party of five Federal agents, raided four establishments in North Pelham and confiscated a quantity of liquors.

Questioned by a representative of The Pelham Sun as to whether this raid marked the opening gun in a clean-up campaign to rid North Pelham of such resorts, both Chief Fitzpatrick and Trustee Albert Shaw, police commissioner, were noncommittal, although Fitzpatrick conveyed the impression that other raids might follow in the near future.

At the meeting of the Board of Trustees on Tuesday night Trustee Albert E. Shaw, Chairman of the police committee reported the raid.

'I understand that the place was operating again within one hour after the raid, but we can continue to take action until we push that sort of thing out of the village.  We shall follow along the same lines if it takes all summer.'

'We certainly will push them out' said Mayor Harrier."

Source:  Liquor Place Is Open Two Days; Raided By Police, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 17, 1931, p. 1, col. 7 & p. 4, col. 3.

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