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10 September 26 • 2013
Student volunteers Don Adzigian of Grosse Pointe Woods and Paul Carlson
of Westland measure the exterior dimensions of the bar.
that original outbuilding. We still have
said that it is entirely possible. "They
lots of questions"
had them all over, especially near the
Volunteers Jeri Pajor and Greg
river:' he said.
Young dug outside the bar, near the
Raskin is unsure. "The Purple Gang
area where the original outbuilding
used to own Luigi's Cafe in Detroit:'
might have stood.
he said. "That's the only one I know of
"What we're trying to do here is
dig down deep enough to see what's
The gang was also known to hang
underneath the building and what's
out at Little Harry's, a fancy restaurant
next to it:' said Pajor, whose role in the and piano bar housed in a French
project was to research rum running
colonial structure, which used to be a
along the Detroit River.
historic landmark on Jefferson before
"From what I understand, the
singer Anita Baker bought the prop-
Purple Gang used to drive over to
erty and razed the building in 1991 to
Windsor across the
put up an IHOP res-
river when it was
frozen:' adds Young.
The students found
"The Purples would
_ 1121 6; 186-
Little Harry's in their
buy booze from dis-
tilleries such as Hiram
Walker, makers of
In the book Rum
Running and the
According to Robert Little Harry's card, used to
Roaring 20s, a busi-
Rockaway's book, But access the speakeasy that
ness card was found
was once in the basement of
—He Was Good To
with the name "Little
Harry" on it. Blind
His Mother, The Lives Tommy's bar
and Crimes of Jewish
pig owners would
Gangsters, by 1926,
have given these guest
there were about 25,000 blind pigs in
passes to folks who were approved and
Detroit, and the Purples controlled all
tested to enter into their establish-
the liquor traffic as well as a number
"Little Harry pops up in the Purple
of speakeasies and gambling houses.
The gang operated them outright or
Gang literature from time to time:'
forced owners to pay "protection"
Ryzewski said. "Our best source of evi-
money to stay in business.
dence is this guest pass to this bar at
Pajor and Young dug down about
624 Third St., opposite Union Depot:'
40 centimeters, finding bottle shards,
bricks, a few nails and embossed glass
underneath the concrete.
Ryzewski's expertise is in historical
The team is trying to find that
archaeology, specifically urban his-
"smoking gun" that would tie the
tory, immigration and how cities have
Purple Gang to the speakeasy that
changed over the years. She's part of
apparently ran in the basement of
a group of five different departments
what is now Tommy's Bar.
at WSU working on a pilot project to
Local Jewish historian Irwin Cohen
develop a downloadable app called