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WSU archaeology students, professor work to solve a Detroit mystery

August 28, 2013

Detroit News feature columnist Neal Rubin takes a peek at a Detroit site that a team of Wayne State University, students led by Associate Professor of Archaeology Krysta Ryzewski, are exploring in an effort to substantiate or refute various legends. The location, Tommy's Bar & Grill, has been the focus of a flurry of stories that it may have been a speakeasy during Prohibition and a place where the Purple Gang operated. In addition, an uncovered tunnel running to the neighboring Fort Street Presbyterian church may suggest that it was a stop for the Underground Railroad. Wayne State's researchers and Preservation Detroit volunteers spent the summer exploring inside, outside and beneath the 144-year-old tavern and will be digging through records until December, when they time the release of their findings to the 80th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. "We haven't found the smoking gun of the Purple Gang," Ryzewski says. As she points out, "They were criminals. They didn't keep a lot of records."