The Secret Bowling Alley

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I received a very unexpected email last week:

We recently purchased a building in Queens, and while clearing out the basement we discovered a two lane manual bowling alley in very good condition. We did some research and this basement was most probably a club during the Prohibition era. Would you or someone you know be interested [in the space]?

A hidden Prohibition-era bowling alley? Yes, definitely interested. I took a trip to see it today - Just incredible:

Bowling Alley - 001

According to the owner, the bowling lanes were hidden under boxes and boxes of junk. After researching the property, the owner now believes the basement was a speak-easy club during the Prohibition Era, with two bowling lanes to entertain customers.

Bowling Alley - 003

The building itself was once a small garment factory in the early 1900s, employing local women to work the sewing machines and men to keep the equipment running smoothly (often husbands and wives). This is the main room, where as many as 50 ladies would be operating sewing machines (though I was told it was not the sweat shop conditions one would assume):

Bowling Alley - 014

What was going on in the basement, however, is a different story...


Each lane features two shallow gutters...

Bowling Alley - 004

...with wood panels set at the ends to keep pins from bouncing out of the lanes (the pins were set-up by hand, of course):

Bowling Alley - 005

Incredibly, the right lane still has a hanging cushion to stop the balls:

Bowling Alley - 006

You can see it better below. Also note the screen on the right:

Bowling Alley - 007

Incredibly, the cushion still hangs to this day by a pair of rusty iron hooks:

Bowling Alley - 008

Lining the outer lane are several decorative poles:

Bowling Alley - 009

Each is a dark-stained wood and features several ornamental rings:

Bowling Alley - 010

A close-up (one can only imagine the parties these have been around for):

Bowling Alley - 011

The wood on the lanes is in great shape. There are a few holes toward the starts...

Bowling Alley - 012

But this is pretty much the only damage for the entire run:

Bowling Alley - 013

Numerous entrances and exits throughout the property would have facilitated discreet access.


The owner is interested in any offers for film, television, commercial, or photographic use. He suggested it as very appropriate for a show like Cold Case, and I totally agree. Pretty much any production looking for an authentic relic of a Prohibition-era club could do wonders with this space, a very rare find.  The upstairs is also available.

If you are interested, send me an e-mail and I will forward it on to the owner.

And please, if you have something like this in your basement or attic or rooftop or whatever, drop me a line!


PS - As always, if you’ve made it this far, think about subscribing to our RSS feed or Twitter account for future updates!