Thursday, March 3, 2011

#141: Martha's Midway Tavern

Around this Mishawaka neighborhood, a handful of bars are hardly distinguishable from the houses on either side of them.  Each is a "if these walls could talk" type of establishment that has welcomed neighborhood regulars for decades.  Yet, none offer quite as much history and local culture as Martha's Midway Tavern, the jazz cornerstone of Michiana.

Midway opened its doors in 1924, and the rhythm hasn't slowed since.  Operating as "Midway Lunch" during prohibition, you could find your favorite alcoholic contraband there, including near-beer, moonshine, and other such bootlegged beverages.  Al Capone is said to have stopped by often while doing business in the Princess City, and would even bring roses for Martha, the original owner and namesake. Despite the 9 month period when they were closed by the police for getting caught selling alcohol (whoops), Midway thrived during the 1930s and even renovated the dance hall, which hasn't been altered since 1930.  

Their reputation as a hub of jazz and blues has equal longevity.  As a "midway" point in between Chicago and Detroit, the movement of (illegal alcohol and) touring jazz musicians brought some well known acts to Mishawaka.  I'll let you search through the old photographs hanging on the walls for the familiar and famous faces of previous jazz and blues performers at Midway.  (In the comments, tell us about who you've seen play at Midway Tavern over the years.)

But back to Martha, the 67-year matron, heart, and soul of the place.  She was inducted to the Bartenders' Hall of Fame in the late 1980s, winning her national attention and accolades.  While the bar still bears her name, Martha's no longer with us.  Fortunately for us, her daughter, Albertina Wassenhove, has taken over since her mother's death in 1990.  Martha was around well before my time, but if she had half of the wit and spunk of Albertina then she must have been quite the barkeep.

Location: 810 West 4th Street, Mishawaka
Hours: Mon-Sat, 5 pm to 3 am
Tip: Check their events calendar for the live musical acts.  Go for the music, and stay for the atmosphere....or the beer, whichever you enjoy more.

1 comment:

  1. A great place, which I recently went to for the first time, to see my buddy's band play (Cornerstone Blues Band--they're playing there this Saturday, March 5). It's also cool to see all the signatures of musicians all over the walls...the walls are literally written in history!