Tulsa Cave House: Speakeasies, Secrets, and Specters

 

The Roaring Twenties: Before the Tulsa Cave House got its name

 

The Cave Garden was swarming with people. Cigar smoke filled the rooms as tall men in dark fedoras ordered whiskey under the code-name of “horse liniment” or “coffin varnish”. They knew that at any time the Tulsa Police could raid the chicken restaurant and arrest anyone that possessed even a tiny drop of alcohol. It was rare that alcohol could be found in the main rooms, but occasionally some blundering fool would walk out with his monkey rum in hand and tempt fate. Typically, the restaurant patrons would have to pay a hefty sum to gain entrance to the rooms that lie hidden behind the stucco façade of the main dining hall. Still, mistakes were made, so a wary eye was always kept on lookout for the authorities.

Occasionally, Pretty Boy Floyd would stop in with his gang of outlaws and share stories of how he and his boys had outwitted the law yet again, all the while showing off his charismatic smile and sipping on some fancy home-brewed liquor. He seemed to favor this restaurant. He enjoyed its picturesque view of Lookout Mountain as it shimmered across the Arkansas River, and always happened by while he was in Tulsa.
Besides the picturesque view that the Cave Garden offered, it was one of the most unique places in Tulsa. Nestled back against a short cliff, the restaurant resembled that of a cave and fit in perfectly with its surroundings. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, while short ledges and obscure crevices lined the walls. The place always smelled damp and musty, and many times the patrons would have don heavy coats to ward away the chill. Still, in an era where prohibition was strongly enforced, people were willing to do anything to get a sip of liquor.

It wouldn’t be until after the end of prohibition that the Cave Garden would come to be known as Tulsa’s Cave House.


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