Kane County History: St. Charles’ Whiskey Bend Signaled Boom Time For Local Taverns

Kane County History: St. Charles’ Whiskey Bend Signaled Boom Time For Local Taverns

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Tim Kirsininkas, marketing manager for the St. Charles History Museum. Images are courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum.

In the early days of Fox River valley settlements, factories and industry were common and lined the banks of the River from Elgin all the way down to Aurora. Each town had its own distinct product or factory that helped contribute to early commerce in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

An influx of new settlers and immigrants during this time frame warranted the addition of an easy form of transportation for workers between the Fox Valley communities and Chicago.

In the 1890s, the first lines of the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin Railroad system were introduced to allow workers with an easy way to get from their homes to their jobs at the factories along the River and near Chicago.

Trolley cars on the route moved along tracks built that followed existing dirt roads between the communities. In St. Charles, the line branched off at Third Street to follow Main Street (Route 64) east toward Chicago. In order to make this turn, trolley cars had to slow down to carefully traverse the curve.

Opportunity Knocks

This presented local barkeeps with a unique opportunity to serve additional amounts of commuting patrons.

When the bartenders would hear the rumble of the interurban trolley approaching, they would pour out shots of whiskey to have ready for weary and cold commuters to enjoy as a pick-me-up on the way home from work who would hop off the trolley car, place some money on the counter, down the shot, and then continue on their way home.

Over the years leading up until Prohibition, the location of Main and Third streets in St. Charles became aptly known as “Whiskey Bend” and became an unofficial stop on the trolley line, leading to conductors on the cars shouting out “Next stop … Whiskey Bend!” to the delight of trolley commuters as they were allowed to hop off and grab a quick drink.

Whiskey Bend And Prohibition

During the Temperance Movement of the Prohibition Era, Whiskey Bend became a top target of local chapters pushing for the full banning of alcohol.

While Whiskey Bend faced further challenges with the ratification of the 18th Amendment, coupled with the advent of automobiles in the 1920s and the eventual closing of the Elgin-Aurora Railroad system in 1934, the tradition of stopping in St. Charles for a beverage after work seemed to return after the repealing of Prohibition.

St. Charles’ robust selection of bars and restaurants today could partially be contributed to these early settlers and workers who looked to quench their thirst with a quick drink following a long day of work at the factories. As the old saying goes, “it’s five o’clock somewhere!”

You can find out more about the history of Whiskey Bend by viewing the Museum’s new display permanently on display in the entrance of Pollyanna Brewing, 106 S. Riverside Ave. in St. Charles.

Party Like It’s 1933 

We’re taking it back to the end of prohibition!

Join the Fox Valley Whiskey Society at the St. Charles History Museum on Saturday, Dec. 7, for a “Party Like It’s 1933” fundraiser.

You’ll learn about Prohibition and how it and whiskey helped shape the Fox Valley all while dining on food from local restaurants and sampling whiskey from Old Forester, Woodford Reserve, Old Overholt and Four Roses.

Bring some extra cash for your chance to win our 50/50 Raffle! All proceeds and ticket sales benefit the St. Charles History Museum.

Tickets available at here.

Read The Kane County History Series!