Bangor Cave, Blount County, Alabama
Bangor Cave in Blount County, Alabama was once labeled “the only underground nightclub in America.” The night club only existed for a year and a half near the resort town and mineral springs of Blount Springs in the late 1930s.
Discovered in the late nineteenth century
Bangor Cave was discovered in the late nineteenth century by state geologist Walter B. Jones located about four miles northeast of Blount Springs. There are three entrances to the cave. One was created artificially when the cave was used as a nightclub. A spur of the Louisville & Nashville railroad terminated at the Bangor station and carried people almost to the door of the cave.
Carved a bandstand from stone
Property owner, J. Breck Musgrove along with a group of investors funded the construction of the nightclub. They blasted a new opening with dynamite and carved a bandstand and bar in the stone. “The floor of the first chamber was leveled with the addition of concrete and covered with linoleum, and the second chamber was later turned into a lounge for women patrons. A locked and heavily guarded room housed slot machines, craps tables, roulette wheels, and card tables. Reportedly, the total construction cost for the nightclub was around $70,000, which the owners claimed that they made back in the first few days of operation.”1
Lights sparkled like Broadway in the Blount County hills
“One unique difficulty in preparing the speakeasy was the lighting. According to a Birmingham newspaper of the day, “electrical engineers studied the lighting possibilities for weeks, seeking to obtain proper effects. The results are that Bangor Cave, in the fastness of Blount County hills, will sparkle with lights like Broadway. The conduits are underground so as not to disturb the overhead stalactite formations.
The engineers illuminated the interior with a variety of colored lights designed to bring out the various colors of the stalactite formations. Through the café, lounge, dance space, check rooms and various other features in the club lights have been placed in the most unexpected and unlooked for places. All are of varied colors which creates a scene of rare beauty.
One of the premier arenas for entertainers to appear
The operators have sculptured an orchestra stand from an enormous boulder inside the cave, which provided seating for 20 musicians and singers. The ledge overhangs the dance floor and is surrounded with chromium banisters with colored flood lights play on the entertainers. This was one of the premier arenas for entertainers to appear in Alabama at that time and many acts were booked from all over the US.2
Raids and legal proceedings
Almost immediately, raids and legal proceedings began against the nightclub after it opened in 1937 with Governor Bibb Graves in the forefront. The owners shut the nightclub down in January 1939 and the wooden structures within the cave burned in January 1940.
Sheriff Ed Miller of Blount County must have made the gambling casino a major point of his election in the political climate of the time. He acted immediately after being sworn in. A news article from The Tuscaloosa News Aug 2, 1937 reported the following:
Three Men Arrested in Bangor Cave Raid
BIRMINGHAM, Aug 2, 1937 (AP)-
Three men arrested after a raid on Bangor Cave in Blount County made bond today on charges of operating and running a gambling casino, Sheriff Ed Miller, who had taken office only a few moments before the raid early yesterday, said all were part owners of the establishment.
When he and two deputies arrived “the place was teeming with more than 2,000 persons,” Miller said. He said he allowed the dining room at Bangor Cave to continue in operation.
Today, not open to the public
Sadly, the cave has suffered structural and cosmetic damage over the years from use and vandalism.
Most recently, the cave is not open to the public and has been purchased by an individual who has been restoring it and working to remove the spray paint as shown below.