Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Went Before? 861 N. Seward

In 1932 this location was home to the Astrologist Club, a hangout for artists and movie studio folk. It was raided on February 11, 1932 in what the press dubbed the 'Peephole' case, because of the method of discovery. Prohibition agents trying to raid the club were denied entrance on their initial demand for entry. Following their second demand agents peeked through the miniature wickets of the thick door and claimed they saw the bartender smashing bottles (of 'apparent intoxicants') into the sink. On their third demand agents punched their fist through the wallboard above the transom and attempted to reach down to the bar. They gained entrance and found a small hidden supply of liquor behind a back bar ('evidence in a quantity sufficient for arrest'), leading to the arrest of five men. The building's owner J.C. McCormick sued for the return of his 'personal property', stating that the agents illegally entered the club without a search warrant. Amazingly in February 1933 United States District Judge W.P. James ordered the return of all evidence (including furniture and bar equipment) seized during the raid -adding that the Prohibition agents acted without cause and too hastily during the raid. The court also ruled not to pursue the prosecution of those arrested.