*SPOILER ALERT: The following blog post contains spoilers for Episode 2, 3 & 4! Before reading on, listen to the start of this amazing story here! Afterward, make sure to read this "Behind-the-Episode" blog for photos and extras!
The Tavern is a true piece of Austin history. The building itself was erected in 1916 and was designed by a an architect by the name of Hugo Franz Kuehne. He was a first generation Austinite who designed several lasting, iconic establishments in Austin.
At the Austin History Center, using the old city directories dating back to the late 1800’s, I was able to find documents pointing to the building being completed in 1921 and the business officially opening up as Enfield Grocery in 1922 to serve as a staple for the 30,000 Austin residents living there at the time. However, I have yet to confirm when designing and construction began.
Photos from The Tavern’s Website — Dates Unknown
Where history gets a bit fuzzy is determining the original intention of the build. Prohibition was ratified in Texas around 1918 and went into full effect in 1920 across the U.S. and continued through 1933. As mentioned, I found record of the building opening up initially as a grocery store. However, it’s fairly apparent in the design that the architecture was greatly influenced by public houses of Germany.
The story that seemed to be repeated and also can be found on a couple articles about The Tavern mention that the original owner, Niles Graham, initially intended to have bar, but when everything was finished, prohibition went into full effect, sidelining his plans. Instead, he opened up Enfield Grocery, or from my research it appears he may have rented out the bottom floor to someone else to have their grocery store there. Meanwhile, a speakeasy and brothel was secretly kept upstairs on the second floor. I have been unable to track down historical proof regarding this brothel as of yet, but will continue my search as we approach Episode 3: The Tavern Part II.
This is etched into the concrete sidewalk just outside The Tavern’s main entrance. Could this sidewalk section actually date back to the early 1900's?
There were several staff members on duty the night I visited with my recorder. I was a bit surprised to get four employees and one patron that stepped forward to share their personal stories. It was a healthy mix of skeptics and believers. Below are some shots my lovely photographer wife Thao Nguyen snapped off that night.
General Manager — Molly
Assistant Manager/Bartender — Sam
Bartender — Zack
Marvin — Bartender (I’m hoping to include Marvin’s personal account either as an extras feature or possibly in Episode 3!)
2nd Floor of The Tavern — Stairs lead down to first floor bar and dinning area
2nd Floor — Ahead you can see the closed door that leads to 3rd floor where the staff’s office and the crawlspace where Emily was supposedly found is.
The “History Wall” on the 2nd Floor where the shoes found during the 2003 renovations can be found.
3rd Floor Attic/Office — Directly ahead is the small crawlspace door. The stairway leading down to 2nd floor is to the right.
The Crawlspace — where Emily was supposedly raped, murdered, and left to be found days later.
Young child’s drawing who claimed to see a “weird girl” near the crawlspace on the 3rd floor. The frame cuts off the image but the character in the drawing apparently does not have shoes on. The frame is said to fall from the wall often and the glass has several cracks in it.
Closet on the 2nd floor that’s rumored to have been Emily’s room. Reports of noises and activity are often reported here.
Molly recording her story in her office on the 3rd floor — in the background the crawlspace and stairway where she often hears noises can be seen.
As I mention in the episode, as I left the building following this long night of interviews, I crossed the street to my car and looked back at The Tavern. I stared up at the windows on the 2nd floor where I’d heard some people had spotted someone in the building after hours.
I saw nothing. But the stories the staff shared with me lingered. Much like those of the artists at Royal Legion Tattoo had stuck with me after visiting their shop for the first time.
I started this podcast with the simple intention of capturing people’s encounters with the unknown. However, I’ve found myself wanting more than just these people’s stories. I want to know if there is, in fact, something here in this bar? If so, who are they and what do they want?
Could all this be true? Was a young child murdered in such a horrific way like the staff had said? Could her spirit be trapped here in this old bar?
I’m starting to realize that this podcast might have to do more than just capture and share ghost stories. I believe I have to try, however that may be, to get to the truth. And if something is haunting a person or place, I have to try to help. Based on what happened in our first episode, it appears some spirits need our help too. And I want to be able to do that if I can.
Following this initial night of interviews, I reached out to Sara and investigated The Tavern on two separate occasions already. The things that unfolded on both these nights were shocking. Things got twisted, turned around, and a lot darker than I could have imagined. We even caught something in a photograph that we cannot explain. The staff have seen it and several have expressed concern and fear about returning to work. What we captured is on the 3rd floor, at the top landing of the stairs, right by the crawlspace.
I look forward to sharing all of what we’ve uncovered, this unnerving photo and much much more on Episode 3: The Tavern-Part 2! Stay tuned.
Stay restless my fellow night owls,