2020 Find of the Month Archive

January 2020 - "A disgrace to any respectable community"

1891 petition

In 1891, almost 100 concerned citizens petitioned the mayor and city council regarding a saloon license application for the southwest corner of Fourth and Pike. The proposed saloon would be in the same building as the Juanita House, which the petition described as “private lodgings of a respectable kind only.” The petition (which was titled “A REMONSTRANCE”) explained,

[t]he proprietor is in no way connected with the applicants for said License, and [does] not wish a Saloon in the building…and we believe the application is made only for the money there is in the Saloon business, that there are several Churches around in the neighborhood of said corner, and that people pass by said Corner in going to and coming from their several places of worship, and that there is a District School on Pine Street, between 3rd. and 4th., and also the University where Children pass daily in going to and coming from the said several Schools, that it is strictly a residence portion of the City, with business houses on Pike St; THEREFORE we humbly ask that the application for a License be not granted.

The proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick O’Brien, wrote separately to concur with the petition to deny the license. They wrote that they were “endeavoring to keep a respectable class of persons as lodgers,” and that if the saloon license was granted they would be forced to give up their business because they would be unable to “secure a desirable class of people.”

Apparently their wishes were overruled, as the archives holds two additional letters from Mr. O’Brien, both dated two years later, with complaints about the “annoyances and disturbances” caused by the saloon downstairs from the rooms where his family and his lodgers lived. He claimed that the owner, a Mr. Hull, conducted his business “in a disorderly and disreputable manner – that is he permits and encourages drunkenness on said premises and lewd women to frequent his said saloon and to become intoxicated.” The customers would “drink and carouse nightly from about 10 PM to about 4 AM,” and their “vile and profane language…can be distinctly heard in my rooms,” depriving him of sleep every night and making it difficult to keep his rented rooms occupied. He declared the saloon “a disgrace to any respectable community,” but it is unclear from the records whether or not city officials ever got involved.