A few years ago, Sweetums and I visited Bangor Cave in Blount County, an intriguing cavern that was once a Prohibition night club and gambling hall. It was quite creepy and I didn’t want to explore its inky depths but, near the entrance, I was able to see the bar that was carved from the cave wall in the 1930s. (The cave is located on private property and permission is required, y’all).
I realized I’d never shared our photos so I’m including them below, along with the history of Bangor Cave excerpted from my book, “Forgotten Tales of Alabama.”
While some historians believe Bangor Cave in the Bangor Community of Blount County was used as a speakeasy in the 1920s, it didn’t gain widespread fame until 1937. In that year, a fancy club and casino opened in the cave 30 miles north of Birmingham near where Interstate 65 is now located. It was billed as “America’s Only Underground Nightclub.” J. Breck Musgrove and investors had lined the cave’s floor with tiles, installed mahogany gaming tables, and carved a bar and orchestra pit from stone.
People came from miles around to drink and dance beneath a ceiling painted to resemble the sky but the casino, which was illegal, was located behind a locked door and open only to a special few with especially fat wallets.
Meals could be purchased for $1.10 and entertainment included Billy Yates and his 12-Piece Orchestra and various vaudeville acts. Patrons could bring their own drinks, or drinks could be purchased at the bar. Martinis were 35 cents. A spur of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad that took patrons to Blount Springs would stop at the rural cave for 10 cents.
When Governor Bibb Graves heard of the sinful goings-on, he included Bangor Cave on his list of “notorious dives” he wanted closed. In August 1937, the Blount County newspaper reported a raid on the club: “Hitting with a bang that reverberated over the entire state, our new sheriff, Ed Miller, raided Bangor Gave on Saturday night just after the clock had passed the midnight hour and made a haul not only in gaming tables, but in arrests and drinks that make wild men wilder.”
More raids would be required before the club finally closed in 1939. By then, the press had turned against the club. The Southern Democrat in Oneonta called it “a den of vice unequaled in Alabama.”
Bangor Cave is still a popular destination but those who come want to explore the cave and its history. Visitors can see the outline of the bar and the carved area that served as an orchestra pit.