Detroit Bootlegger’s Tour

On Oct. 22, two bus-loads of about twenty people each went on a pilot “Bootlegger’s Tour” of Detroit’s Eastside. Because of Detroit’s proximity to Canada — Windsor, Ontario is just across the river — the city was a hotbed of Prohibition era alcohol smuggling. Gangs fought over turf, and people converted bars and private homes into speakeasies where people could gather for an illicit drink.

Detroit’s Eastside was home to much of this activity, and on the tour, we visited…

  • St. Martin’s Catholic Church, whose expansion was paid for by gangs who, in exchange, stored liquor in the basement.
  • Maheras-Gentry Park, where Fox Creek joins the Detroit River. Fox Creek offered a convenient waterway for alcohol trafficking.
  • The Belle Isle Aquarium, where the basement was used as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
  • Marshall’s Bar, a historical local watering hole that conveniently sits on Fox Creek. It was a speakeasy during Prohibition.