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Construction Project Exposes Speculated Prohibition-Era Speakeasy

Crews found the underground, arched door while working on a new entrance at 15th and High Streets as they demolished Long’s Bookstore, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Tue August 22, 2017 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


>Crews found the underground, arched door while working on a new entrance at 15th and High Streets as they demolished Long's Bookstore, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The door had been walled shut and seems to lead west beneath High Street and through OSU's campus.
>Crews found the underground, arched door while working on a new entrance at 15th and High Streets as they demolished Long's Bookstore, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The door had been walled shut and seems to lead west beneath High Street and through OSU's campus.

A construction project at Ohio State University revealed a doorway to what might be a secret Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Crews found the underground, arched door while working on a new entrance at 15th and High Streets as they demolished Long's Bookstore, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The door had been walled shut and seems to lead west beneath High Street and through OSU's campus.

Keith Myers, associate vice president of planning and real estate for OSU, said he had heard rumors about a speakeasy in the bookstore's basement, but “I never believed it,” he said. “I called it urban legend. I figured it was one more story in the storied University District,” Columbus Monthly reported.

But if you're curious about what may be hiding behind the door, you'll just have to wait. According to Myers, “There will be no Geraldo-style reveal.” Crews won't have the chance to open the door until sometime next year, Columbus Monthly reported. “We don't have time now,” Myers said. “We backfilled it. We need that site for laydown space [to put construction materials and equipment for project].”

“It's probably more fun to speculate than to know anyway,” Myers continued. “I'm pretty suspicious that what we're going to find is a whole lot of dirt. But who knows? The doorway is there, no doubt about it, and its construction is old.” 

According to Basil Long, Jr., a relative of the Long Bookstore's family, the tale of a speakeasy connected via underground tunnel to OSU is likely untrue, and said he had never heard of a speakeasy located in the basement of the 108-year-old-bookstore. “I'm not at all sure it was a tunnel,” Long said. “I think it led to a storeroom that housed old military manuals…It certainly wouldn't surprise me, [to learn of the existence of a speakeasy], but I have no reason to believe it.”

The construction site is a $30 million project that includes improvements to a 150-room hotel, parking garage, office building with retail space, dining and a pedestrian-centric plaza.




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