What exactly is the Hub of Hell? Word has it, it is the real estate that exists at the intersection of 26th Street and 26th Avenue in the Seward Neighborhood, southeast of downtown Minneapolis. It is bordered by Hiawatha Avenue, the Midtown Greenway, and the Mississippi River.
Though the area’s history stretches back long before the prohibition of alcohol changed the landscape of drinking in the early 1920’s; the neighborhood is primarily remembered for its relationship to ardent spirits, factories, and the Milwaukee Chicago Railroad. Time has taken its toll, and the buildings have since been razed, but Andrew Volstead’s Noble Experiment has left behind the ghosts of tippling houses, speakeasies and seedy blind pigs.
Once a burgeoning destination for the pursuit of drinking and fighting, the Hub of Hell, mid-century was the home of saloons, nightclubs, and strip joints where corrupt cops could strike unsavory bargains with the city’s underworld. Steelworkers from the Minneapolis Moline factory joined young men and women, coming of age during the era of the Vietnam War, for Friday night recreation.
In the 1960’s, gang members known as the Baldies lurked in the shadows. These boys, organized by the legendary Deuce Casper, engaged in fist-fights for the sheer joy of feeling knuckles against teeth. Restless, and needing to blow off a little steam, disorderly young men participated in gangland fights behind places like Duffy’s Bar, Pearson’s, the Hexagon, Nibs and the Stardust Bowling Alley, much to the delight of onlookers. These unnecessary battles kept the old General Hospital emergency room hopping on weekends. Now in their 70s, the Baldies continue to recount their glory days.
But the times, they are a changing. These days, you are far more apt to raise a glass of Lawless Spirits in a toast, than raise a fist in a backstreet brawl.