Monday, September 22, 2014

The Brown Jug Saloon

The Brown Jug Saloon & Inn, 1861-1917

From my series on the history of saloons and hotel-bars of Victoria, 1851 - 1917

By Glen A. Mofford

The Brown Jug Saloon opened on January 23, 1861 on the southeast corner of Fort and Government Streets. John D. Carroll, an Irishman by birth, became an American citizen, arrived in Victoria in the late 1850’s. Carroll was a grocer and liquor merchant who opened a successful retail liquor business on Yates Street before deciding to go into the lucrative saloon business with the Brown Jug Saloon.

Carroll was very active in the pioneer town of Victoria. He began the first express wagon service between Victoria and Esquimalt along the old forest trail that connected the two towns. “Newspapers of the day described it as an important public enterprise.”[1] 
Carroll was also active in the Cariboo goldfields showing off “a fine nugget of gold” in his store on Yates Street.

The Brown Jug Saloon was one of the more sophisticated and high-class saloons in town. The Victoria Colonist reported that, “the interior is very tastefully and elegantly fitted up and attached to the main room is a reading room well stocked with reading material. It is a costly affair and we hope will prove profitable to its enterprising proprietor.”[2]  The striking bar was made of polished mahogany and was reputed to be the longest bar in the west at fifty feet. Bevel-edged mirrors, crystal glasses and seemingly no expense was spared to offer patrons the very best, right down to the solid brass spittoons.[3]

[1] Green, Valerie, Upstarts and Outcasts: Victoria’s Not-So-Proper Past, Touchwood Edition, 2000, page 160.
[2] Victoria Colonist, January 23, 1861, page 1.
[3] Green, Valerie, Ibid, page 161.

Carroll did not get to enjoy his new saloon for long as he was a sick man. He was suffering from what was then called consumption, today known as tuberculosis. In July 1862 he left for San Francisco in hopes the milder climate would help but died there on July 14, 1862.

His beloved Brown Jug Saloon was purchased by Thomas Golden, and a new chapter began in the history of this popular establishment which you can read about in my upcoming book, Aqua Vitae: An Illustrated History of the Saloons and Hotel-Bars of Victoria, 1851 – 1917.