Bicentennial Snapshot No. 45: Speakeasies

Today we continue our Prohibition in Greece story with a look at the speakeasies that dotted the town.

Clinton N. Howard

Clinton N. Howard was a powerful, passionate, and persuasive advocate against alcohol. He was called the “Little Giant” (he was only five feet tall) and the “Apostle of Prohibition.” Widely known as a brilliant orator, it was said that between 1901 and 1920 when the 18th amendment was passed, he had addressed more people than any other living individual. He visited almost every town and city in the nation. He gave more than 3500 sermons just in the Rochester area alone.

Broadside promoting Clinton N. Howard from digital.lib.uiowa.edu
Headline from Democrat & Chronicle July 31, 1928

Howard damned Latta Road as “the Highway to Hell” because of the number of speakeasies along its length. Once Prohibition went into effect, Howard was a constant watchman to see that it was enforced. He disguised himself (sometimes as a woman) and went into places to obtain evidence the law was being violated in more than 300 cases. During the first week of April 1921 alone, a disguised Howard (he looked like a derelict), along with two US Secret Service agents. visited 138 bars and was served whiskey at 137. He did so to prove his claim that the Rochester area was openly flouting the law and that local police were doing little or nothing to enforce it.

But the beach resorts and hotels that catered to the tourists and summer vacationers were going to continue to give their clientele what it wanted, law or no law.

Limburger Cheese Club at the Grand View Beach Hotel from the Office of the Town Historian

Grand View Beach Hotel

Grand View Beach from GHS

Anthony Kleinhans built the Grand View Beach Hotel circa 1882 at 2200 Edgemere Drive (today Old Edgemere Drive). Joseph Rossenbach, Sr. took over and then was succeeded by his son, Joseph Rossenbach, Jr. who was a proprietor during Prohibition. Newspapers referred to the Grand View Beach Hotel as an “exclusive lakeshore nightclub.” Thousands of dollars had been spent to transform the wooden building, which faced the lake, into an attractive resort. It was “one of the most exclusive of the lakeside night clubs…having long been popular with merrymakers who seek recreation at the midnight hour.” Right from the earliest days of Prohibition, the Hotel was a favorite target of dry agents.

But the year 1930 was extraordinary; in August three raids were made on the Hotel in quick succession. The raids marked the first time within the memory of any of the Rochester agents that a place had been visited two nights in succession. When the agents staged their surprise raid on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 6, four barrels of beer, immersed in the cool waters of Lake Ontario which flowed through a cellaret under the bar room were found.

Headline Times-Union August 7, 1930
Headline Times-Union August 8, 1930

The warrant used in the raid on the night of August 7 was executed in Buffalo on a complaint of two special agents, who reported they had made several “buys” of liquor at the Hotel on Wednesday night, scarcely two hours after the first raid. Agents swarmed into the crowded barroom just as the evening’s gaiety was getting underway. Catching a glimpse of the raiders approaching the door, Harry Lames, the bartender, began smashing every bottle within reach. The tinkling glass spurred the agents to greater speed. One started to leap over the bar shouting threats. Lames desisted in his efforts to destroy the evidence.

Although the agents did not enter the crowded dining room of the Grand View Beach Hotel on August 7, “news of the raid spread quickly and in a moment the place was in an uproar. Glasses were emptied surreptitiously under the tables or tossed into handy flowerpots. Agents reported several cuspidors in the barroom were filled to overflowing with liquid smelling strangely like alcohol as worried customers stood awkwardly nearby with empty glasses in hand.” On August 9, in the third raid in four days, State Troopers seized liquor samples in a midnight raid on the luckless hotel once again. Ultimately, the Grand View Beach Hotel Bar was ordered padlocked for six months in October 1930.

Headline Times-Union October 8, 1930

Sea Glades Hotel/Bar/Restaurant

Sea Glades Hotel, 1920, from the Office of the Town Historian

The Sea Glades hotel/bar/restaurant located at 788 Edgemere Drive was known by various names over the years, Outlet Cottage, Lake View, The Breakers, Surf Club, and Edgewater, but during the height of the Prohibition era, it was called Sea Glades. The proprietor, Ward Vaughn, was considered the most genial of hosts and a “highly personable character.” At the Sea Glades, Vaughn had a “class trade” who liked to spend freely and stay late. It became Vaughn’s custom to invite his customers to the darkened porch of the Sea Glades to watch the cases of whiskey and bags of ale as they were “imported” from Canada from a boat idling just beyond the sandbar. He figured it proved his claim that his product was “right off the boat.” The rumrunners, however, didn’t like so many witnesses, so they shifted to a nearby cove and loaded the liquor into an automobile, and then delivered it to Sea Glades. Vaughn, reluctant to give up his nighttime drama, just substituted his own employees offloading empty wooden cases from a boat borrowed from a friend, his customers none the wiser about the charade.

Mike Conroy Boxing Career

An immigrant from Watervliet, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium whose real name was Clement J. Versluys, Conroy made his professional boxing debut on May 31, 1920; and during his ten-year career, with 57 bouts he won 34, 22 of them were KOs, Lost 19, 8 of them were KOs., and 4 Draws. The remaining matches for Mike Conroy’s carrier were before he turned pro which put his record at 31 Wins, 22 of them were KOs, and 2 were either losses or draws before he went pro which puts his overall wins at 65 wins of his 79 bouts, 42 of them by knockouts (KOs). He also won several heavyweight titles here in New York State and on December 13, 1924, Mike Conroy won his match in Havana, Cuba against Antolin Fierro the match was planned to be a 10-round match but by the 5th round, Mike had successfully Knocked out Antolin Fierro and took home the Cuban Heavyweight title to Greece, New York. He was a sparring partner of Gene Tunney during the five years leading up to Tunney’s defeating “Battling Jack Dempsey” (Henry Peaks) for the heavyweight crown. Conroy also fought exhibitions with Jack Dempsey. Dempsey and Tunney were the two leading boxers of the Prohibition era.

Mike Conroy Stats from BoxRec.com and according to BoxRec.com the stats they have for Mike Conroy’s professional debut. any Fights listed in his record before that date of this fight, in record published in THE RING, were amateur affairs.

divisionheavy
statusinactive
bouts57
rounds359
KOs38.6%
career1920-1929
debut1920-05-31
ID#038308
birth nameClement J. Versluys
sex male
nationality USA
residenceRochester, New York, USA
birth place Watervliet, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium
BoutsWins
5734
LostDraws
194
Mike Conroy’s Professional Boxing Stats
Mike Conroy matchbook cover
1925 Flyer

Pine Tree Inn

Pine Tree Inn from GHS

Mike Conroy’s Pine Tree Inn, located at 1225 Ridge Road West at the terminal of Mount Read Blvd, was formerly the home of the Lay family, one of the early settler families in Greece. The name comes from the pine trees which used to surround the apple orchards. It was converted to a tavern-hotel around the turn of the 20th century and was purchased by Conroy in December 1928. The congenial Conroy, known as the Bull of Ridge Road, didn’t let the Volstead Act get in the way of his turning the Pine Tree Inn into a local hotspot. His establishment was raided by dry agents in August 1929 and in May 1930 and padlocked in December 1932. Conroy’s inn straddled “the line between the town of Greece and the city of Rochester,” and his lawyers used that quirk to beat convictions. If the warrant said the property was in Greece, the lawyer produced a paper, such as a gas bill, saying it was in the city and vice versa. In due course, agents learned to make out warrants both ways.

Domino Inn / Cosmo Club

As we told you in Snapshot 24, the hotel at Latta and North Greece roads had many names during its 108-year history. It was the Domino Inn and Cosmo Inn during Prohibition. In August 1922, private detectives caught proprietors Harry Wilson and Lewis Dustin serving highballs, cider, and whiskey. Wilson and Dustin were ordered to appear in court to show cause why they should not be removed from maintaining their property. On April 16, 1926, the Domino Inn was raided by a squad of federal agents; they confiscated a pint of gin and proprietor Lewis Dustin again had to answer for it in court. Under new ownership with a new name, the Cosmo Club, the inn was again a target for dry agents in 1932 when proprietor Ray Keck (who previously owned a restaurant at the intersection of Latta Road and Long Pond Road) was arrested for possession of two half barrels of beer and a small quantity of liquor.

North Greece Hotel/Domino Inn from GHS

T.W. Beatty & Son. Island Cottage Hotel

Island Cottage Hotel from GHS

Beatty’s Island Cottage Hotel, at 953 Edgemere Drive near Island Cottage, was a lakeshore landmark built by Thomas Beatty in 1891 shortly after the opening of the Charlotte Manitou rail line. It soon became the spot to go for summer outings and picnics. Raymond Beatty took over the operation of the hotel in 1917. It was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1932. Ray Beatty and Walter Riddell, the bartender, were arrested after a raid on July 23, 1932, when seven half-barrels of beer, 330 gallons of cider, and assorted liquors were impounded. Riddell was arrested and fined again in May 1933 just months before the law’s repeal.

Reardon’s Inn / Braddock Bay Grill

Braddock’s Bay Hotel from GHS

Reardon’s Inn, later the Braddock’s Bay Hotel, was located at 372 Manitou Road. William and Jane Reardon owned and operated Reardon’s Inn. Jane Reardon was arrested on August 13, 1931, for possessing two half barrels of beer, two gallons of cider, two ounces of whisky, and two ounces of gin. She pleaded guilty in September and was fined $100.00. Today it is the Braddock Bay Grill.

Braddock Bay Grill, 2019, photo by Bill Sauers

Grove House

Grove House, the 1910s from the Office of the Town Historian

Grove House, located at 187 Long Pond Road was established at least as early as 1880. It was considered a roadhouse compared to more upscale speakeasies.

The arrests made during raids were for comparatively little alcohol; there was “some beer, wine and cider” on August 28, 1929; 16 one-gallon jugs of cider on November 29, 1929; and a mere two gallons of cider and one barrel of beer in August 1931.

Grove House, undated, courtesy of Bill Sauers
Public Nuisance Sign from GHS

The bar was padlocked for several months in 1932.

Grove House’s alcohol was supplied by the Staud Brothers. According to Dwight Bliss, George Staud told him that they kidnapped a federal agent, who infiltrated the Staud organization and held him in the basement of Grove House where they threatened him with a “one-way ride to Lake Ontario.” The agent managed to escape, but possibly still in fear of the Stauds, requested a transfer to Detroit where he thought he’d be safer.

Grove House bar, undated, courtesy Bill Sauers
Grove House, 2008, photo by Bill Sauers

After Prohibition, George and Eddie Staud operated the restaurant at Grove House.

After the Staud brothers, Fred Rotunno owned it for a bit before it became Barnard’s Grove you can read more on the Grove house from Fred Rotunno and Edmond Uschold interview that was done by George Caswell and Edwin Spelman on August 10, 1977.

Today, it’s Barnard’s Grove Restaurant.

Barnard’s Grove, 2022, photo by Bill Sauers

Explore the Prohibition and Speakeasies Exhibit – Ongoing

Prohibition exhibit at Greece Historical Society and Museum, photo by Bill Sauers

To learn more about the Prohibition Era in Greece visit the Greece Historical Society and Museum at 595 Long Pond Road, where Rumrunners, Speakeasies, and Bathtub Gin is an ongoing exhibit. The Museum’s hours are Sundays, 1:30-4 pm, March through December.

Below is a custom map created by members of the society that shows all the locations of the speakeasies.

On the Map Below the Reardon’s Inn is actually supposed to be marked on the John Mose 4 acres lot and not on F.H. Straub land

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