In the tiny village of Ames, New York, new homeowners unearthed a secret history that almost sounds too far-fetched for reality.
Nick Drummond and Patrick Bakker are the owners of the Bootlegger Bungalow. They have been living in the rural home for about a year. They were told it was built by a bootlegger but didn’t believe it until their recent renovation brought out the truth.
“I was in the process of removing this rotted wood skirting that went around the mudroom, sort of where the foundation would be if it was a truly finished structure, and as I’m peeling back the boards on one of the sides, all of the sudden all this hay falls out and I was very confused,” Drummond said. “At first I was like, ‘Oh this must be insulation’ – of course all this is taking place within a few seconds in my head – and then I look and I’m like ‘Well, wait a second, what’s that glass thing?'”
“And then I pull it up and I’m looking at this old liquor bottle, and then I’m looking at the other package and there’s these other little tops poking out of the hay, and then I look back at the wall and there’s like the edge of this other package tied up with string and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, this is like a stash of booze,’” Drummond said.
Sixty-six bottles of Scottish whiskey from the prohibition era were hidden for nearly a century within the walls and floorboards of a little shack tacked onto the side of the house, originally used as a mudroom to store coats and shoes.
“It was like you found the jackpot,” Bakker said. “Like this is what you always want to find in a house.”
The bootlegger who lived there was Count Adolf Humpfner. According to newspapers at the time, he was the talk of the town and involved in a lot of scandals. Drummond says he died a sudden, mysterious death, leaving all the bootlegger alcohol behind.
“I mean, the guy had a buffalo robe,” Drummond said. “I don’t even know what that was. But I’m just imagining this tall, heavyset German guy walking around in a buffalo robe surrounded by dozens of cash registers … It’s fantastic, I love it, I love thinking about that.”
As they continue renovating the house, Drummond and Bakker say they want to preserve its incredible history.
“Every building has a story to tell,” Drummond said. “It’s really a matter of peeling back all the different parts and pieces and sort of analyzing them. And you’d be surprised by what you can find.”
Keeping only a couple damaged bottles, they say they plan to sell the rest to collectors, each one worth something between $4 and $1,200.
“At the end of the day, we’re just sitting and we’re like, ‘We really like the house so much more now,’” Bakker said.
By Elizabeth Ruiz, LEX18.