Gems of Itasca: The Bovey Edition

Bovey is an historical jewel on the Iron Range, known for its rich mining history in the early 1900s. It’s also the home of the world-famous 1918 photograph Grace.

Bovey was bustling in the early 1900s. A major highway led through the town’s center and past the Renaissance Revival-designed Bovey Village Hall, which still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Opposite Bovey Village Hall was the Bovey Mercantile store, the biggest hardware store in Northern Minnesota at the time. Now known as Annabella’s Antiques, legend has it that part of the store operated as a speakeasy during prohibition days. The still existing tunnel and side doors that led from the basement out to the alleyway is how the patrons escaped during fed raids, so the story goes.

The Gems of Itasca short-form video series is produced by A Plus B Productions.



about 8 years ago

More on Bovey and the Prohibition tunnel:

Duluth News Tribune: Iron Range business opens Prohibition escape tunnel

Paul Lundgren

about 8 years ago

It's a fun video, but the speakeasy escape tunnel story is more fiction than fact, according to an article by Beth Bily for this week's Scenic Range NewsForum. Historians are calling the accuracy of the video into question.

They say the film segment and a subsequent community event implied that a speakeasy and escape tunnel were located at the former Bovey Mercantile - an implication not supported by historical records. Producers say that while the segment was shot with the building as a backdrop and suggestions were made in the film about the building's past, they presented the claims as local legend and never definitively said those claims were true.
It turns out that the part of the building that housed the hardware store and its tunnel wasn't constructed until six years after Prohibition ended.

An article in the Itasca Iron News, dated Aug. 17, 1939, announced the opening of a greatly expanded Muotka store - and a tunnel that connected the general store to the flour and feed store across the alley. The newspaper suggested far more ordinary uses than escape for the tunnel: "The connection with the flour and feed store and feed manufactory is by tunnel through the basement, a six-foot roadway built of concrete beneath the alley that runs between the two store buildings."

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