War On Whiskey

Hampton Roads had many prohibition era stills in locations from Chesapeake to North Carolina

Shortly after Prohibition began in Virginia in 1916, stills to manufacture now-illegal alcohol popped up from Chesapeake to North Carolina. “Moonshine Meadow” in present-day Northwest River Park, Chesapeake, was home to several stills. Cape Henry was home to the “Desert,” another huge moonshine-producing locale. These stills made the whiskey to be transported to the speakeasies around Tidewater.  

What ensued for the next several years was a war on alcohol that lasted throughout the Prohibition years. The papers reported liquor busts several times a week, and in time they became so common, they did not even make the news.

An article that ran in the Virginian-Pilot in 1927 reported the story of the Silver Spray, a yacht containing 500 five-gallon bottles of pure corn whiskey that was seized by Prohibition authorities in Norfolk. Upon realizing they had been caught, the crew fled to the woods after the ship was moored near City Hall Avenue in Norfolk and escaped arrest. The liquor was seized and dumped overboard into the Chesapeake and Albemarle canals.

Finally, in 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the ratification of the 21st. Virginia was the 29th state to accept the repeal of Prohibition. However, Virginia’s General Ass-embly voted on a ban of public consumption of hard liquor and instituted the ABC to control the retail of liquors. To this day, the ABC stores are the only outlets in Virginia allowed to retail liquor.