Imagine buying an old fixer-upper of a home and finding treasure in the walls.
That’s exactly what happened to an Ames, New York couple this year. Accept the treasure they found was liquid treasure.
Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker bought the 105-year-old home about a year ago. At the time of purchase, they heard the small-town fable about the home once belonging to a notorious bootlegger, but they took the claim with a grain of salt.
After a year of living in the house, the two decided it was time to start on a significant renovation. And as they worked, they found more and more proof that what they’d heard was more than just small-town legend.
Drummond immediately began documenting their finds on social media, specifically an Instagram account @bootleggerbungalow.
“OUR WALLS ARE BUILT OF BOOZE!”
“I can’t believe the rumors are true! He was actually a bootlegger! I mean I thought it was a cute story, but the builder of our house was ACTUALLY a bootlegger!”
In an interview with CNN, Drummond, who is an architect and historic preservationist, said that during the reno process he was removing some of the skirting around a mudroom that was attached to the house.
“I’m like, what is that? I’m very confused. I’m looking and there’s hay everywhere, there’s paper, and glass … I see another package and it’s this whiskey bottle.”
“I’m like holy crap. This is like a whiskey stash. And this is like, all of a sudden, the whole story of the bootlegger.”
Those first bottles of Prohibition-era whisky were found in October 2020. By late November they had found 88 bottles.
The bottles were all wrapped in a layer of paper first, then straw bundles, and finally wrapped again in brown parchment paper.
The labels on the bottles identify them as Gaelic Old Smuggler. A century ago, that was a well-known brand, and today it’s popular amongst collectors.
The hidden cache wasn’t limited to outside the house.
As Drummond continued ripping down walls and pulling up floors, he continued to find more bottles stashed around the house. Including hidden compartments under the floorboards.
“Once inside the other compartment, you are crawling around on your back in dirt, in 12-18” of space. Lots of cobwebs. Looking up, instead of seeing floor joists, there are solid boards covering the underside of the joists, held in place with flat head screws. Bizarre. They would never have done that under an unfinished mudroom. And if for some reason they wanted to attach those boards 100 years ago, they would have used nails- not screws. Unless of course, they wanted to access it again in the future!
With our curiosity piqued, we were able to pry the end off one of the joist bays by the hatch opening. Inside….more packages!!! There’s whiskey under the floors too!”
At some point, Drummond began doing some research on the house.
He made an appointment to see the county clerk and did some additional internet research. He learned that the house had been built by Adolph Humpfner, a man of much mystery. It appears that he had several aliases and was known locally as “The Count.”
Officially, Humpfner was a wealthy lumber dealer. He was never arrested for bootlegging but was often called out for being one—although he always denied these charges.
He died in 1932, which was just a year before Prohibition laws were repealed in 1933.
Since he’s involved in historic preservation, I’m sure Drummond found all this fascinating.
As for their find, the two have been getting multiple offers to buy the bottles, all of which are not in perfect condition.
Times Union reports that of the 88 they have found to date, only about ten are in saleable condition. 13 bottles are full, although some have damaged tops, with the rest being partially or completely empty thanks to evaporation.
If they decide to sell those ten, it will certainly help with their renovation costs. Back in 2018, a single bottle of genuine Old Smuggler’s sold in an online auction for $1,268. However, if Humpfner was indeed a bootlegger, there is a good chance that these are not genuine.
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