“All Quiet at the Distillery” Walking Tour…the Virtual Version

On October 3rd and 5th, customers and staff ventured out of WPL’s Ellis Little Local History Room and onto the streets of UpTown Waterloo to learn about the local impact of Prohibition and temperance. The walking tour began in front of the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, where we looked across to the old Seagram’s Distillery buildings and learned about the beginnings of Prohibition. The story continued as Janet Seally, Manager of Information Services & Local History, told us of bootleggers purchasing Seagram’s whiskey under the cover of night and the inspectors who tried to stop them.

The second stop of the tour took us to the intersection of Albert and Dupont Streets where we stood in front of the building that used to be home to the Market Hotel and learned how prohibition affected the hospitality trade. The third and final stop on the walking tour was at the King St. and Princess St. intersection, across the street from Stark & Perri. We learned that Stark & Perri isn’t just a cool name; it’s a reference to Bessie Starkman and Rocco Perri, a bootlegging couple that ran part of their operation out of the building when it was the Waterloo Garage.

Both tours ended in the welcome warmth of the Huether Hotel‘s malt room, where we heard from Libby Walker of the City of Waterloo Museum, and Kelly Adlys whose family owns the hotel. As some tour attendees sipped a beer at the Huether while they listened, their enjoyment was no doubt increased after hearing of the dry times in Waterloo around 100 years ago.

If you missed the tour, you can still experience the history through a virtual exhibit that has been created on the Waterloo Public Library’s Our Ontario site (the home of all our digitized local history material). The exhibit is made up of the research, photos and newspaper articles that were used for this year’s walking tour. Learn about the way Prohibition affected local distilleries, about secret rum running tunnels and more by visiting this link.

— Jenna H.