By Katherine Rapin
For years, both local drinkers and tourists have found their way down a little alley to imbibe at the oldest bar in Philadelphia. McGillin’s Olde Ale House, tucked between 13th and Juniper on Drury Street, opened in 1860—the year Abe Lincoln was elected president. The establishment is proud of its history; it saw the end of the Civil War, the construction of City Hall, and even Prohibition. Florence Bennett’s wide smile brings us back to the celebrated day the taps started legally flowing again.
“They didn’t repeal Prohibition entirely that day,” says Chris Mullins, McGillin’s owner. “They only allowed bars to serve 3.2% [alcohol by volume] beer.” Philadelphians didn’t pay much heed to the ban on alcohol during the 13 years it was in effect anyway; we were singled out as one of the “wettest” cities in the United States. As many as 15,000 speakeasies popped up here during Prohibition in this city of 2 million.
This photo, a clipping from the Evening Public Ledger, hangs on the tavern wall upstairs. Check it out in person and while you’re there, raise a glass of McGillin’s Real Ale to Philly’s defiance.
McGillin’s Olde Ale House
1301 Drury St.