20 July 2009

Illicit Hooch Tunnel Once Ran Under Carroll Gardens

While doing some random searching through old articles in the New York Times' internet archives, I ran across a curious item from 1936 titled "50,000 Liquor Plant Raided in Brooklyn."

In September of that year, City police and federal agents raided 166 President Street between Hicks and Henry. They chased Paul Savasta and four or five others down a stairway from the basement level to the cellar. There they found "a 1,000-gallon still extending from the sub-cellar upward through the cellar, basement and parlor floors... They also found four 650-gallon vats of mash, several thousand pounds of brown sugar, a number of 5-gallon unfilled cans and several retaining cans."

But that wasn't their most interesting find. There was a hole in the rear of the sub-cellar. Climbing through this and down a ladder about six feet, they encountered a large wooden door, which opened to a tunnel, "with shored walls and ceiling and high enough to walk through." The 100-foot tunnel took a diagonal path to the backyard of 542 Henry Street, between President and Carroll. At that end, there was another ladder and a trapdoor. "The tunnel is equipped with electric lights and at each end there is a button and buzzer for signaling."

Totally cool.

I have to imagine the whole apparatus was build during Prohibition and the owners just kept on using it in order to avoid paying taxing on their homemade hooch.

I went and checked out both addresses and neither exists any longer. 166 President (above) is a new construction, bracketing by older buildings on either side. 542 President (below) is a parking lot, also of recent pedigree. Mysterious. I wonder if the tunnel is still somewhere underground.

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