Gangsters, flappers, moonshine makers, anti-saloon leagues and rum runners—that’s who you’ll meet inside Savannah’s new American Prohibition Museum.
Walking through the two-story, 5,500 square-foot museum, guests will explore 13 immersive galleries, which not only share the facts, but also take guests back in time and walks them through the history using everything from talking portraits to new-style film reels, life-size wax figures and rooms decorated to look like shacks and saloons.
“We’re teaching, but it also feels like you’re a part of it. It’s totally unique for museums,” Museum Manager Kayla Black said. “We’re definitely an immersive museum. We like to say we’re not your typical dry museum, which is sort of a fun play on prohibition and the temperance.”
Original wax figures and a 1918 beer truck greet guests as they enter.
The figures were created by one of the oldest wax museums in the country, Potter’s Wax Museum in St. Augustine.
While exploring the exhibits, visitors will meet Billy Sunday (who called Savannah the wickedest city in the world), as well as Carrie Amelia Moore Nation (a radical member of the temperance movement who demolished bars and saloons using a hatchet) and Will the Moonshiner (who is actually Tim Smith from Moonshiners on Discovery Channel), among several others. Adolphus Busch and Lillian Stephens make an appearance as talking portraits and there’s even a line-up where visitors can take photos with Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and Bugs Moran. In this same room, guests can play with a decommissioned, gutted and restored tommy gun.
A museum this interactive was no small feat.
The task of transforming what was then a retail store and apartment upstairs to the first prohibition museum in the United States took a lot of work. They replaced the windows and restored the brick and wood. Colorized photo murals went up throughout the building. The museum installed a small theatre, a whisky river, Carrie’s “hatchetation” bar and a moonshiner scene.
“We have a fully-functioning and fully-stocked speakeasy.
During the daytime, we will be offering prohibition-era cocktails. At night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, we’re open for public consumption. We’ll have a separate door on Congress Street, where you will be able to come up,” Black explained. “We’re still keeping everything as authentic as possible, but we’ll have a more creative menu at night.”
While the speakeasy welcomes guests for cocktails, the theater will have its own entertainment. They will switch from daytime screenings of a film about the unintended consequences of prohibition to showings of vintage and historic movies in the evening. The room and bar are available to rent for private events.
“It’s nothing like anything else in Savannah or anywhere else in the country,” Black said.
Tours of the museum, which is located at 209 West St. Julian Street, just off Ellis Square, are $12 for adults and $9 for children and expected to be about 45 minutes long. Those 21 years and older will get wristbands and access to the speakeasy. For more information, call the museum at (912) 551-4058 or go to americanprohibitionmuseum.com.