The Suburban Gardens, Park Heights Avenue near Wylie, a large beer garden which was closed with the advent of prohibition. Tables for 1,700 guest were arranged in tiers above the dance floor. (Undated Baltimore Sun file photo, circa 1920)
Edgar Allan Poe Jr. had a vision. He saw German-style beer gardens. A distant cousin to the famous poet, Poe Jr. (1896-1983) was Maryland’s leader of an anti-prohibition organization called The Crusaders.
A Baltimore Sun article from Jan. 8, 1933 reported on Poe’s vision of Baltimore’s post-prohibition drinking landscape.
Poe said that the end of prohibition, which was put into effect by the 18th Amendment in 1920, was “in sight.” He wasn’t too far off. Prohibition would be repealed by the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.
Poe just wanted to be ready.
Poe proposed that beer gardens, which flourished in Maryland before prohibition, were a better, and more easily regulated venue, than the kind of old-fashioned, vice-breeding saloon that had incited the Temperance movement in the first place.
The kind of beer garden that Poe envisioned was different from the pre-prohibition model, mostly in the way it wanted to discourage the consumption of hard liquor and encourage the drinking of beer and wine. Poe thought the key to responsible drinking was to eliminate the profit motive.
Poe’s vision got Baltimoreans thinking of the good old days. The Baltimore Sun summarized the response to Poe’s proposal.
"[They] said Mr. Poe’s beer gardens — with or without the restrictions he would impose — happily recall Pabst’s beer garden on Biddle street; Thompson’s Seagirt House, near Point Breeze; Electric Park, east of Reisterstown Road; River View Park in its heyday; Easter’s Park on Belair Road, Klein’s on the Patapsco’s Spring Garden branch, Dickson’s (or Yockel’s) at the end of old Long Bridge; the Walnut Spring Hotel, Brooklyn; Flood’s at the end of the Curtis Bay car line, the aforesaid Kaiser Roof, at North Avenue and Madison; and Suburban Gardens."
There was no bringing back Suburban Gardens, which The Sun said was “the greatest of them all” — picture five full-service bars, 70 waiters, two orchestras and tables for 1,700 guests rising in three trellised tiers above the dance floor.
Sun readers in 1933 were told that St. Ambrose Parochial School occupied the property on Park Heights Avenue, near Wylie Avenue, where Suburban Gardens had once stood.