Hotel Vernon. Pirates and The Prohibition.

Hotel Vernon is ANYTHING but ordinary. The building stands about five stories tall between Water Street and Milbury Street in Worcester, MA. The building is light tan and brick with a modest ‘Miller Light sign’ that reads Hotel Vernon. Since I was a little kid I heard stories about this place. Thanks to an impromptu visit there on Sunday, the rumors transformed into legends.

It was around 2pm when we walked into the empty bar area of the building. The murals of Shipwrecks and Pirates seemed haunting upon first sight (the murals line the border of the room.) The room had a brown dingy look to it–it looked unchanged for a while now–but eclectic and pleasing nonetheless. We were pleasantly greeted by the bartender, Eric. Probably sensing we were curious about the place he asked us what we’ve heard about it. I said “I heard Babe Ruth used to come here.” True indeed, yet there was much more we didn’t know.

Since the bar was empty he brought us on a tour of the place. Pretty awesome. We were led into a room referred to as The Ship Room or Worcester’s Yact Club. The room was erected to resemble the interior of a ship with booths and a stage for performers. The Ship Room has really become a hot venue for up-and-coming local bands. A far cry from when the place in its entirety was referred to as ‘a crack head hangout.’ The new owner Bob has been revamping the place’s image while keeping the integrity of the interior.

Everywhere you look at Hotel Vernon, you can spy  pirate memorabilia. There’s so much to look at. On our way out of The Ship Room I noticed a hand written poster with a poem about Flappers. This didn’t make sense to me until Eric offered to bring us into the basement.

Eric was pretty excited to show us the basement and it was so apparent why! That particular area of Worcester had a canal running through it around the 1920’s—this made it accessible for bootleggers to bring rum and moonshine from Providence to Worcester. In the basement of Hotel Vernon still stands a speakeasy!! We entered a much safer route than the original. Eric showed us where one of the entrances was; right through the women’s restroom! Hookers used to hang out there and offer sexual favors to the bar patrons. The going rate  was just $5 up until recently (now not offered. ) Yikes!! I do know Babe Ruth liked women and booze! It’s no wonder he spent some time here! So upon arrival to the speakeasy—one must whisper the ‘secret word’ to be let in. That word was Madam Rhubarb (I am not sure why this was the word the bootleggers used–yet I saw lots of  paintings and prints upstairs depicting a ship called Madam Rhubarb.) We made our way through the dimly lit basement corridors into a room with a skull and crossbones on the entrance. Very fitting, I’d say. The bar was tiny and tucked into the corner and there were other rooms near the bar (possibly for prostitutes or hiding booze.) The energy in that room was crazy!! Ethereal and eerie. Eric told us that there have been a handful of paranormal groups that have found activity there but they’re still searching for something solid. Workers  have reported hearing and seeing things there as well. There’s a rumor that five prostitutes were killed and buried in the walls here; but I don’t think an excavation will be under way! I found the trough by the bootlegger’s entrance to be extremely amusing!! It was a trough used by the guests at the speakeasy to pee in. Drop yer pants and have another drink!

We spent a little time in the basement–mostly in awe at how untouched it was. This wasn’t some Disneyland tourist attraction! This was real and very rare to be able to see–and we were so thankful to Eric for letting us go down there. I think this really might be part of revamping the place and rebuilding Hotel Vernon’s reputation in the Worcester community.

We went back up stairs and a few customers trickled in. Tired, working class people–the regular Sunday crowd. Drafts were $1 and served in the coldest, icy mugs. That was a good beer…

You’re sure to have a refreshing experience here! Thanks Hotel Vernon and Eric for sharing the history with us!! We will be back and we will bring friends!!

Fridays and Saturdays seem pretty hopping there–lots of bands and a diverse crowd.

~ by christinaleo on March 29, 2010.

2 Responses to “Hotel Vernon. Pirates and The Prohibition.”

  1. I really like this site! And the Hotel Vernon. Here’s a couple of facts to add to your “coverage”: The mural in the bar area was painted by the cartoonist Al Capp, famous for his Lil’ Abner cartoons that ran for god knows how many years. In the Yacht Club, the ship’s wheel on stage was donated by Burl Ives, the folky who had such hits as “A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down,” “Little White Duck,” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” He was also the voice for Frosty ( or maybe Santa?)in the animated Christmas program that runs on TV every year

  2. Wow, that’s so cool! It’s so interesting how many celebrities were linked to the Hotel Vernon! Thanks for the good facts!! Oh and Burl Ives…I love him! It’s not Christmas without Burl Ives!

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