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Located on St. Julian Street, Savannah’s City Market – It is the first and only museum showcasing the history of the Prohibition movement.
During the 2015 summit of Historic Tours of America (one of the largest Heritage Tourism companies), they wanted to establish a museum in the United States dedicated to the history of prohibition in Savannah. Then, in 2017, the prohibition museum was completed in a former retail store and apartment building in the city market.
Savannah was chosen from all seven places in consideration due to the city’s prohibition efforts. The museum has 13 different galleries, four vintage cars, a working and stocked Congress Street up speakeasy bar, a theatre, and more spaces telling one all about the temperance-shaped thinking and culture of the American prohibition movement.
The museum provides a comprehensive overview of how Prohibition impacted people and companies nationwide, but it also focuses on regional relationships to alcohol. The first American law banning alcohol was passed in Savannah in 1735, according to a sign outside the museum’s entrance.
The unlawful side of Prohibition, represented by moonshiners and speakeasies, is also explored by the museum. At the museum, moonshiner Tim Smith of Discovery Channel fame delivers a video presentation about creating white lightning at the museum. Additionally, it is said that the museum has the greatest collection of copper stills in the country.
Speaking of speakeasies, exhibits highlight how integral they were to developing jazz and flapper attire. Visitors can also discover the connections between Prohibition and gangsters.
At the end of Prohibition, visitors may be thirsty by the time they’ve learned all there is to know about Prohibition and its significance in American history. The museum also contains a bar where traditional drinks are shaken and stirred.
Let us look at these in detail.
1) Inside The Museum
This interactive and modern museum spans over 6000 square feet; you can get self-guided tours throughout its galleries, with more than 200 artifacts. With hi-tech immersive displays and dioramas, you can enjoy alcoholic beverages!
The History of the prohibition museum, portraying America’s struggle and American politics, is embedded in each of its galleries, which stands for a particular phase like –
1.1) The Temperance Movement Exhibit
Around the 1850s, with high alcohol consumption, several anti-alcohol rallies swept the nation, with organizations like the Anti-Saloon League lobbying for prohibition.
The efforts of the American Temperance Society were a huge help and made a mark in American history. Around 2,00,000 individuals supported the cause.
This exhibit contains pamphlets, posters, and propaganda that influenced the American Votes. You will see the event’s leaders, causes, and consequences here.
1.2) Carry Nation Exhibit
Around 1900-1910, we get a revolutionary woman – Carry Nation, who fought for the temperance movement, smashing saloons with bricks, rocks, and her famous hatchet.
She was arrested multiple times for vandalism, but her hatred towards liquor can be understood once you tour this section.
Enjoy and take a selfie with her lifelike figure and hatchet!
1.3) Rum Runner Exhibit
The protests did not stop criminals from smuggling alcohol across the sea, well established with premium liquor and top brands on the table.
The rum runners took the risk as the ships carried 200,000 contrabands in a single trip.
This exhibit will reveal why Savannah is known as the ‘Bootleg Spigot of the South,’ with their journeys and goods.
1.4) Moonshine Exhibit
The 18th Amendment (1919) prohibited the sale, transportation, and consumption of alcohol, which led to its illicit production by bootleggers who called it ‘moonshine.’
The 100% low-quality pure alcohol killed almost 10,000 people, which led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment.
In this exhibit, you can make your stills with one of the largest collections, and you can also educate yourself on alcohol-proof levels.
1.5) Flapper Craze Exhibit
A picture of the modern women of post-World War 1, who were one of the first to work outside their homes and swept the nation with dance moves during prohibition, is shown in this exhibit.
This will be the perfect place within the museum to learn about the flapper flair, the popularity of the trend, and some jazz moves.
1.6) Crime and Gangsters Exhibit
One of the causes of Prohibition was a well-organized crime, with the profit of bootlegging operations.
With almost 1,00,000 homicides and 100 million dollars of profits brought in by al Capone and his allies, this exhibit will give you the criminal evidence of those times from confiscated items, destroyed stills, and Tommy guns.
1.7) Rise of Authentic Speakeasy
The roaring twenties included the rise of speakeasies or secretive establishments with hidden underground saloons that served craft cocktails and played popular jazz music, which was quite common.
Visit this speakeasy bar to get a feel for history.
However, on 5 December 1933, the prohibition era, which lasted for thirteen years, ended. It was celebrated wildly in the first and only museum dedicated to prohibition, with immersive displays and several facilities.
1.7.1) Features of The Congress Street Up Speakeasy
The Museum also provides an option for educating oneself on one of the alcoholic drinks witnessed during this phase of American History.
The Congress Street up classes include prohibition Era cocktails, whiskey, and tequila tastings to enjoy and learn from one of the hottest bars on Julian Street in Savannah, GA.
1.8) Mixology Class
It becomes a complete speakeasy-themed bar with vintage music and a costumed bartender on Saturdays and Sundays. The services are open at night from Thursday to Saturday and have a contemporary cocktail culture feel. For an extra $35, the speakeasy might also provide mixology lessons. In this lesson, visitors may learn about the classic recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch, a highly recommended beverage for visitors to Savannah’s historic quarter, along with two other cocktails from the Prohibition era.
2) Why Tour the Museum?
The museum-goers can avail themselves of the following tickets and packages –
- A museum and drink ticket would include access to the speakeasy and one drink.
- You also get an option to experience through historical tours, giving you the story of America’s struggle during that period.
- You could opt for a one-day trolley ticket to avail of the old town trolley tours package, which has unlimited reboarding options, GPS tracking, and other features.
This can depend on the number of days and an exclusive option of ghosts and gravestones tour.
For the museum hours and age restrictions that can be part of your museum experience, click here to know more.
2.1) Is It Safe to Visit?
It would be apt to travel through this prohibition museum in Savannah post-Covid as all the safety measures like wearing face masks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing norms are aptly followed.
Extra precautions with hospital-grade UV light, hydrogen peroxide cleaner, HEPA anti-viral filters, and a daily cleaning crew are also present.
3) Other Popular Sites of Savannah
You could also travel to Forsyth Park, dine in a bus station turned restaurant, visit the sacred places, know its Artwork and architecture, and connect with nature throughout Savannah, GA.
3.1) Recreate the vibe
Savannah now has a sister site of the well-known Charleston, South Carolina, with this highly loved restaurant, Prohibition, which serves inventive, expensive drinks with a Jazz Age theme. Spend the evening at home and sample the relaxed tasting menu with beverage suggestions.
3.2) Drink at the dockside
If you’re planning on visiting Tybee Island? Pull over at The Wyld Dock Bar, which is directly on the marsh. You can get great drinks and fresh, regional seafood with Prohibition history. There isn’t any proof that it served as a drop-off point for alcoholic beverages during Prohibition, although many speakeasies sprang up there. You might want to go and get some homemade liquor and enjoy it readily.
3.3) Enjoy moonshine and the wild surroundings
Visitors to Savannah shouldn’t overlook the stunning scenery in the region. A good area to look for these scenic views is Skidaway Island, State Park. But if you’re always fascinated by history, the Big Ferry Trail is a 3-mile-long journey along a historic route with a possible Prohibition link. It concludes the journey to the water’s edge, where you can pot mostly decomposed moonshine. It was discovered on the now state-owned island. To know more, click here.
4. Celebrate the end of the Prohibition
Ghost Coast Distillery was the first distillery following Prohibition in Savannah and has been in the business since then. It is known to offer traditional vodka and an orange variant, with bourbons and additional whiskeys to follow. The name of the vodka also has a story behind it, but to conclude, it refers to the 261 years since Oglethorpe established Georgia as a state. Complimentary distillery tours are available every half hour from Tuesday through Saturday.
When exploring these restaurants in Savannah’s historic neighborhood, do you have any questions about what to order? Savannah has several rum-based beverages; rum was the initial illicit substance sold there. Visitors can explore many options while lunching or dining in here. However, Chatham Artillery Punch is the traditional Savannah drink.