Opened in 2008, Stone Mad Pub is the latest in a long tradition of saloons and bars located at 1306 West 65th Street. The history of the building speaks to the importance of these establishments within a community, and reflects the changes that the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood has experienced over the last century.
The building was constructed as a tavern and store house by Cleveland's Leisy Brewing Company in 1912. The construction of the bar coincided with a period of great success for the brewery. As Cleveland's largest brewery at the turn of the century, Leisy owned multiple taverns throughout the city. This was a common practice for breweries of the era. Saloon keepers generally paid rent at the first of the month and were billed weekly for beer and whiskey. Breweries established the prices, which were generally the same throughout all of their saloons.
The choice to build on West 65th was likely due to the rapidly growing working-class immigrant population in the neighborhood. The neighborhood surrounding the tavern was densely populated with Irish, Italian, and Romanian immigrants. At a time when boardinghouses were common -- and living quarters were cramped -- the saloon offered a space to socialize and relax. The saloon keepers, who could generally speak English, were important members of the ethnic community. They regularly acted as intermediaries between the immigrant population and government officials. Some establishments even acted as banks for their patrons.
While production for Leisy Brewing Company peaked in 1918, the Prohibition enacted between 1920-1933 quickly resulted in the brewery's downfall. The bar on 1306 West 65th Street, however, continued operation as a popular speakeasy of the time. What is now known as the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood was notorious for Romanian, Irish, and Italian bootleggers during the Prohibition. Oral histories from the neighborhood suggested that the speakeasy at 1306 was raided by the police one night, and that barrels of whiskey were cracked open and poured onto West 65th Street. Despite such displays, Prohibition had little effect on the alcohol consumption of Cleveland residents. It is estimated that whereas Cleveland had about 1,200 bars in 1919, by 1923 these had all been replaced by over 3,000 speakeasies. Even more common was the sale of liquor in neighborhoods by those with an entrepreneurial spirit, and the brewing and distilling of homemade beverages for personal use.
Following Prohibition, the bar on 1306 West 65th Street continued to reflect its place within an ethnic community. The establishment was operated through the 1950s by an Italian social club known as the Societa Operia Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso del West Side. Italian social clubs, which were generally made up of people from the same family or hometown, peaked in popularity during the 1930s and 1940s. With the effects of post World War II suburbanization and assimilation, these societies slowly lost their importance as social and recreational outlets. By the 1960s the establishment was known as the I & R Bar, or the Italian and Romanian Bar. Due to the continued decline in the presence of these ethnic communities in the surrounding neighborhood, the establishment became the R & A Lounge by the 1980s.
With the disappearance of commerce and industry from the area, the neighborhood began to show signs of physical deterioration. Through the efforts of community organizers and citizen action groups, the commercial district on West 65th Street and Detroit Avenue has been revitalized over the last three decades. Efforts to develop the area as a center for the arts are also well on their way. These changes in the neighborhood were both instigated by and helped foster a resurgence in the creation of locally operated businesses. As with much of the redevelopment that has occurred in Detroit Shoreway, Stone Mad Pub acknowledged and preserved the history of the area while creating an establishment that would also serve the needs of a rapidly changing neighborhood. The front bar was designed as a traditional Irish pub, while the dining room took on an Italian motif.