It’s not every day that you find century-old bootleg whiskey in the walls of your home, but for Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker, that was their reality earlier this month.
The couple moved into their home in Ames, New York in 2019 and had been living in it as-is for nearly a year. They recently decided to take the plunge into renovating and doing so they discovered dozens of bottles of 1920s whiskey hidden within the walls.
“We were just working on removing old finishes and everything and that’s when we found those first secret compartments,” Drummond, 30, told TODAY. “I was trying to get the trim off (outside). I was taking this thing off and this whole thing fell out. At first, I assumed it was just insulation or something then I was like, why is there glass?"
“When I saw that there was the edge of another package it did hit me, like holy crap, this is bootleg booze," he explained. "The thing is, it wasn’t just one, then it wasn’t just two, it was the entire wall.”
But while they were surprised, the treasure trove of bootleg booze actually made sense. Neighbors told them part of a crazy story when they bought the house: the place was built by a bootlegger!
"I never thought it could possibly be true," he said.
A second spot in the home, a hatch in the floor, drew Drummond in. “We knew the hatch existed, but it’s an unfinished mudroom,” he said. “It’s just crawlspace access. We never really thought about it. Previous owners said that’s just how you get to the abandoned well.”
The hatch led to yet another secret hiding spot for the forbidden booze. “They put boards under the floor joists and packed stuff up there,” he explained. “All of the boards were held in place with flathead screws so they could unscrew it."
Many of the bottles Drummond and Bakker found seemed to date back to 1923, during the prohibition era in New York.
“We’re keeping at least one bottle to try,” he explained. “Any empties we’re probably going to keep with the house. The bundles in the floor for whatever reason — the first one at least — that I pulled out, it looked like all of the alcohol had dried up. So at that point, it’s more sentimental. I think we’re actually going to leave some in the floor and maybe do a glass panel so you can see the packages beneath.”
The couple hasn’t found anything similar to the whiskey during the renovation, but they have enjoyed uncovering the wild history behind the house, including the tumultuous story of the man who is thought to have built the house, Adolph Humpfner.
Drummond initially took to Instagram to share the shocking and historical surprise, unpacking the bottles from the walls hidden behind the trim of the home. He’s been posting updates on his Instagram and a corresponding Facebook page called Bootlegger Bungalow ever since, documenting both the renovation and history of the home, including documents and old articles to uncover the history of the house and the personal history of Humpfner.
“We’re obviously going to continue to dig how we can into the story of what happened here and try to put it all together, but the main reason is actually to document our renovation of the house,” he said, adding, “It feels like we’re solving a century-old whodunnit.”