Saturday 18 January 2014

The Rum Runner Pub

Bar at Walpole Hotel  

Our friends Heather and Justin took my husband and I to the Rum Runner Pub in Kitchener for a murder mystery last night.  It was like stepping back into the Roaring Twenties.  Descending into the basement, we were walked past a dark wood-panelled bar, through a long twisting tunnel to a backroom.  Right away I knew there was something unique about the pub.  I asked the waitress about the pub's history and she said that during Prohibition, it was a rum running joint.  It had secret passageways, hollow walls and an old safe. Rumor has it that gangster Al Capone visited the place to buy liquor back in the Thirties.

Al Capone courtesy

I wanted to find out more so I googled the pub.  It is part of the Walper Hotel at the corner of King and Queen Streets in downtown Kitchener.  Built in 1893 for the price of $75,000, it originally had only two stories.  The hotel was built in the Beaux Arts style with elegant brick work and arches.  Originally, a guest could get a room, three meals a day, a water pitcher, gas lamp lighting, a horse hitching post and a common bath for only $4.50 per week.

Wilfrid Laurier courtesy

The elegant hotel attracted famous guests including Prime Ministers Wilfrid Laurier, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau.  The Queen Mum paid a visit along with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Canadian author Pierre Berton also stayed at the hotel.  The Walper attracted first class musicians including Louis Armstrong, who played his trumpet on the hotel balcony, and Duke Ellington, who conducted his orchestra in the crowded ballroom.  At its peak, the hotel housed 10,000 guests per day.

Duke Ellington courtesy

Gangsters continued to visit the hotel even after Ontario repealed prohibition in 1927 as it would be another six years before the law was repealed in the United States.  Today, people come for the good food and the murder mysteries (and the history).

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