A Speakeasy or Blind Pig in Town

I try to imagine Lansdale without any wateringholes or at least any sanctioned wateringholes and it seems nearly impossible. No liquor stores, no bars, no beer distributors, no alcohol of any sort. I can’t imagine a weekend without a glass of wine or a summer, Saturday afternoon without a beer. No Oktoberfest, no Lansdale Craft Beer Festival, no social clubs and no restaurants that served alcohol. In fact, I can’t believe there was ever a period in time called Prohibition from 1919 to 1933. But that was a bad dream when our government tried to legislate human behavior (I wonder what Benjamin Franklin would have thought about Prohibition). Then we woke up and eventually overturned that silly edict with the Twenty First Amendment.

Lansdale was not immune from the Eighteenth Amendment, and as a result anyone wanting a drink was forced to look for it in out of the way places. And one place that residents went looking for that libation was 200 East Fourth Street– a lovely craftsman bungalow that today looks like the model of respectability and middle class values. I was told by a friend that this home was once a Speakeasy or Blind Pig, which are names for an establishment that provided illegal alcohol and maybe a little entertainment and gambling as well.

I stopped in to see if the rumor was true– seventy-six years after liquor became legal. I was welcomed by Annie and Albert Arbogast, a delightful couple who are the fourth owners of the house. Indeed, it was a speakeasy or at least she was told this by a descendent of the orginal owner. She welcomed me into her home with its original chestnut molding, and she led me to a stairway that was unremarkable other than remnants of a deadbolt lock. “This was the entrance to where all the fun transpired”,  she said. This evidence confirming a speakeasy was a bit of a stretch I admit, but it was upon seeing the stage upstairs and the dressing rooms that made the story become a bit more palatable and interesting. A stage upstairs? It made perfect sense given the period. Certainly no television and little in the way of recorded music, a small stage in someone’s home for some entertainment and a few drinks. I can only imagine the bribery and favors that ran rampant at the time. It’s not like ratting your neighbor out to code enforcement for high grass or calling the police for not shoveling snow from sidewalks today. On any given evening your neighbor, or in this case, 200 East Fourth Street, would have a few dozen guests over for a little, illegal party. I wonder about code enforcement; I wonder about the police department and what they said or reported about these gatherings for fourteen long years. While there may be more closet space in newer homes and an open floor plan, you won’t find a history of Speakeasys or Blind Pigs in any homes built after 1933. What makes for better conversation: a walk-in closet or the history of a home as a Blind Pig? I’ll let the reader decide.

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