Prohibition artifacts found under Evansville bookstore
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Bookstores can be a great way to learn new things, but the owners of one local bookstore actually made a discovery – below their books.
The owners of Your Brother’s Bookstore say prior to opening for business, they found a room under their store that may hold ties to local history.
Before the store opened its doors last year, the owners say they were replacing the floors and discovered a trapdoor to a room under the floor.
“We, of course, went down immediately,” said Sam Morris, one of the owners of Your Brother’s Bookstore.
What they found was an old, dusty room with a hole in the wall. The owners say they assumed it just connected to the basement of the next business over and didn’t think about it much.
That is until the Evansville African American Museum reached out, thinking it might hold evidence from the Underground Railroad. When people from the museum came to investigate, they learned the hole in the wall connected to a tunnel that runs under Main Street.
“The first day that it happened, our sign outside said, ‘Ask us about our secret tunnel,’ because I just wanted to tell every single person that it was down there,” said Morris.
They say the museum didn’t find any evidence of the Underground Railroad, but they did find artifacts connected to prohibition. The owners say they found parts of a still, glass bottles, and even a table and chairs built into the wall they believe could have been part of a gambling den.
Vanderburgh County historian, Stan Schmitt, says this fits the area’s prohibition history.
“Indiana went dry before Kentucky did, and so there was a year or so where there was a lot of stuff coming across the river,” said Schmitt.
The owners of the bookstore say people from the museum took a few artifacts with plans to make 3D models of them, then the originals will come back and they will have a small museum-quality exhibit in the store.
The owners are also thinking about how they can take advantage of their secret room.
“We’ve been coming up with just funny things that we can do down there. I think we’re going to throw down some porcelain dolls and seal it back up, let that be a surprise for the next people,” said Morris.
Until the exhibit is up and running, you can always catch a glimpse of the trapdoor peeking out from under a rug in the store.
If you’re interested in learning more about the tunnel, or Evansville’s prohibition history, visit Your Brother’s Bookstore or an Evansville library.
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