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Wayne State students looking for speakeasy clues
On Thursdays, Tommy’s Detroit Bar and Grill is serving food and beverages as usual. But in its basement and outside alley, Krysta Ryzewski and a team of students and volunteers are attempting to solve a Detroit mystery.
Ryzewski, assistant professor of anthropology, began conducting a building survey and site excavation of the facility in July. Located at 624 Third Street, the brick building has housed a variety of businesses since its construction in the mid-1800s. Among them, according to legend, was an illegal speakeasy – popular during Prohibition.
“Our work is trying to determine whether or not physical evidence in and around the building and/or complementary written sources in archival collections confirm the existence of a speakeasy in the building,” says Ryzewski. “The alleged speakeasy would have been a central gathering place for many of the Prohibition-era's criminals, politicians and businessmen; it was ground zero for a significant chapter of Detroit's history.”
The all-volunteer project is jointly run between Wayne State University and Preservation Detroit.
Ryzewski hopes to conclude the project with a celebration in December, appropriately occurring around the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.