site of Central Park Casino during Prohibition

Central Park is associated with Prohibition in several ways.

Central Park Casino

The short-lived Central Park Casino was located inside the park at W. 66th during Prohibition. Walker was Mayor. There were charges of corruption about the deal to build and manage this upscale casino. Here  society people brought their own liquor and  the casino provided the setups  Walker was at the Casino often. Some called it the second City Hall. His Police Commissioner prevented raids until Governor Roosevelt insisted the feds be allowed to do their job of enforcing Prohibition, even in the Casino.

Park Bench

Arnold Rothstein met  Waxey Gordon on a bench in the park in the first year of Prohibition to begin smuggling quality liquor from Europe. First it was to be smuggled to the eastern tip of Long Island. Second,  it was to be tucked to a warehouse in Queens.To do this, they bribed the officer of  a Coast Guard station near Montauk Point.

A Drugstore

Kaufman’s Drugstore, 95 Lenox Avenue, is on the northern side of the Park.  Here then-Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia demonstrated for the press how to make their own beer. He stood on the sidwalk in front of Kaufman’s  and took legal malt extract, available in any drugstore, and near beer, also available and legal, and mixed them together.

A Parade

Central Park was  the focal point of a large parade for the return of legal beer in the final years of Prohibition . More than 10,000 participated. The parade began in Yorkville on the northeastern edge of the Park. Then it went down Fifth Avenue, then across and  up the West Side. Finally, the parade came back through the park to the starting point. Mayor Walker led the parade.

 

[For more, see Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Press 2013. The author is Ellen NicKenzie Lawson, creator of this website. This is a scholarly book, less than 200 pages, with text, photos, footnotes, appendix, index, and primary documents. ]

Entrance to Central Park Casino (later tavern on Green) from Eighth Avenue and 66th