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Prohibition in Charleston


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



Additional Resources

Mapping Prohibition in Charleston

The Volstead Act, also known as “prohibition”, was turned into the Eighteenth Amendment on January 16, 1920. Because it was no longer legal to produce or sell alcohol, establishments that once had economic stability due to the consumption of liquor had to find other means to make a profit. The Charleston city square is one example of how laws change the layout of businesses in a foot-traffic heavy area. Individuals would be able to go shopping, enjoy a meal and get a drink in the span of a few hours. Once prohibition was in effect, taverns closed and a café or lunchroom usually opened in that building. While there is little evidence to know if a business complied fully with the law, or if some former tavern owners continued to produce and sell alcohol out of a private room, it is not unlikely that at least one place in Charleston was breaking the law. After the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed, however, taverns could once again serve alcohol. The maps below show where taverns, cafes and restaurants, casinos, and billiard halls were located on the square before prohibition, during, after, and today. 

map key 





Map from 1919: Before prohibition was passed, there was only one recorded tavern on the square—the Red Front Saloon.

Map from 1928: During prohibition, there were no legal taverns. McClellan’s Café, however, is highly suspected to have sold alcohol illegally.

Map from 1937: Four years after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, there were the same number of taverns and restaurants on the square. While there is no direct correlation between the two, it does show the increase in alcohol distribution.


Map from 2016: Today there are more taverns on the square than there were in the 1920s and 1930s, with some places to purchase food and beverages.



Blumenthal, Karen. Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2011.

Burnham, J. C. “New Perspectives on the Prohibition ‘Experiment’ of the 1920’s.” Journal of Social History 2, no. 1, (Autumn, 1968): 51-68.

Charleston City Directory. 1912. Quincy, IL: The Hoffman Directories, 1912.

Charleston City Directory, 1919. Champaign, IL: Clark-Elwell Co., Publishers, 1919.

Charleston, Illinois City Directory, 1937. Quincy, IL: The Hoffman Directories, 1937.

Charleston Illinois Con Survey: Directory 1952. Chillicothe, OH: Mullin-Kille, 1952.

Clark-Elwell Co. Directory of Mattoon, Ill.. 1916. Decatur, IL: Review Press, 1916.

Deters, Tim. “Uncovering Historic Roots of Roc’s.” The Daily Eastern News, February 29, 2012.

Drury’s Charleston, Illinois City Directory, 1932. St. Louis: Schuyler Drury Publisher, 1932.

Easter-Shick, Nancy and Bonnie Brooks Clark. Life in Downtown Charleston, Illinois 1830-1998: ‘Round the Square. Charleston, IL: Easterchick Publishing, 1999.

Engdahl, Sylvia, ed. Perspectives on Modern World History: Prohibition. Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning, 2013.

History of Coles County 1876-1976. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1976.

The History of Coles County, Illinois. Chicago: William Le Baron, Jr., & Co., 1879.

Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1910. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu.proxy1.library.eiu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44781/rec/9. Accessed December, 2015.

Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1919. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu.proxy1.library.eiu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44781/rec/9. Accessed December, 2015.

Sanborn Maps of Illinois, 1929. http://collections.carli.illinois.edu.proxy1.library.eiu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sanborn/id/44781/rec/9. Accessed December, 2015.

Gebhart, John C. “Prohibition and Real Estate Values.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 163, (Sept. 1932): 105-112.

Jonah Goldberg, “Buds for Life”, National Review, Vol. 52, no. 18, 33-34.

Personal interview with current owner, Mike Knoop, December 2015.

“Stock Market Crash”, PBS, http://www.pbs.org/fmc/timeline/estockmktcrash.htm, accessed October, 2015.

Stuntz, William J. “Race, Class, and Drugs.” Columbia Law Review 98, no. 7, (Nov. 1998): 1795-1842.

Szymanski, Ann-Marie. “Beyond Parochialism: Southern Progressivism, Prohibition, and State-Building.” The Journal of Southern History 69, no. 1, (Feb. 2003): 107-136.

Personal Interview, Mike Knoop, December 2015.

Polk’s Charleston (Cole’s County, Ill.) City Directory 1957. St. Louis: R. L. Polk and Publishers, 1957. 

This webpage was created by Emily McInerney, Historical Administration Graduate Student, Class of 2015-2016