Monday, March 12, 2007

Beer Relief in Old Portland

Don Younger is the owner of the Horse Brass. He sat down with me last winter for an interview over snifters of scotch. We talked for over four hours, and from him I learned a great deal about the history of many of the bars in Portland. With the coming of St. Patrick’s Day, I was reminded about a fascinating anecdote I learned about the past of many of Portland’s oldest bars.

As I outline in my book, Shots of Portland, throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Portland was a town for men. The bars and saloons catered to their every vice, and women were strictly prohibited in the bar (upstairs women of a certain profession were encouraged, of course). Plumbing however was not a regular fixture in Portland until after 1900, and in some bars it came even later. With all those men drinking, there would obviously be a need for to dispose of their borrowed beverages. The solution many bars opted for was to direct the run-off of water from the West Hills under their establishments. These culverts often ran directly through the bar itself, where iron-grates covered the running water so that men could stand at the bar, and when the occasion called, could relieve themselves without having to go out into the muddy streets. In many bars such as Jake’s Crawfish, and Jake’s Grill, Don relayed to me how the grates were eventually replaced with tiling once the modern flushable toilet was invented.

The next time you saddle up to an old bar in the city, and there is that nice terracata tile covering that area in front of the bar, stop and think about how much times have changed from 100 years ago.

More stories from Don Younger to come in the future…
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