Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bank Street Brewhouse's former patio will be rechristened as the WCTU Reading Room.

See also: Construction on Lloyd's Landing at Bank Street Brewhouse begins this week. Here are the plans and details.

With the imminent expansion of Bank Street Brewhouse to the north, creating an outdoor garden to be known as Lloyd’s Landing in honor of the late Lloyd “Highwayman” Wimp, we will rechristen the former covered patio space as the WCTU Reading Room.

This requires a brief explanation.

Once upon a time, there were three separate lots between the Fox law office building to the south of Bank Street Brewhouse, and the Ricke agency to the north. Three grand houses built during the city of New Albany’s 19th-century adolescence stood on these lots until just after World War II. The first house to be demolished was the middle one, around 1950. Bank Street Brewhouse now operates from the remodeled garage building erected there.

Circa 1955, the houses on either side also were taken down, to be replaced by parking lots. It so happens that the house on the north side of Bank Street Brewhouse was owned for a very long time by New Albany’s branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. City guides dating from 1954 all the way back to 1919 identify the house as the WCTU’s chapter headquarters.

The NA-FC library’s web site contains a snippet about this long forgotten structure, as written in 1937 – just after Prohibition mercifully ended.

In the year 1852 Mr. John Crawford built and sold to Mr. Silas Day the large brick house on the west side of Bank Street now owned by the W.C.T.U. This was an example of a New Albany home of the better class in the 1850s and 1860s, and Mrs. Bowman, a daughter of Mr. Day, gives us a glimpse of the family life. She says, "I have a vivid memory of a morning when the family gathered in the back parlor for prayers, a daily institution in our home. I can see the large room, the light filtering through the shutters upon the white and gold walls, the green velvet carpet, the black haircloth furniture, and the tamboured muslin curtains, and I can see the form of my sister, a bride, lately returned from her wedding journey, sitting at the melodeon, leading us in our usual morning hymns. I remember her morning robe of buff pique, form-fitting, and opening all down the front over an under robe of white embroidery. She looked beautiful to my admiring eyes. The melodeon was always used at prayers and to accompany hymn singing on Sunday evenings.

I’m uncertain precisely when the WCTU came to inhabit the house, although in 1882, New Albany’s chapter merited mention in the “Minutes of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the State of Indiana at the Annual Meeting.

It is reasonable to surmise that the New Albany WCTU’s zenith came in the early years of the 20th-century, during the successful campaign for nationwide Prohibition. Accordingly, Prohibition’s myriad and well-documented subsequent failures corroded the strength of America’s teetotalers. These days in New Albany, the craft brewing revolution flourishes on the very spot where its enemies once thrived, and symbolism like this is too delicious to ignore.

Hence, the evolution of the WCTU Reading Room at Bank Street Brewhouse. Your suggestions and questions are welcomed.

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