The Jungle Inn
During the 1930s to the late 1940s, a destination known as Halls Corners, located on what is currently the corner of Logan Gate and Applegate Road in the southeastern portion of Liberty, became a nucleus of illegal gambling activity.
According to Dr. Fred Viehe, professor of history at Youngstown State University, the Jungle Inn originally was founded by a local bootlegger and taxi driver, Charles Sedore, and was first called Sedore’s Roadhouse.
“During the spring of 1929, Sedore purchased this land that would become a speakeasy and then later, a night club when Prohibition appeared,” Viehe said. “Sedore was in the bootlegging operation and wanted to go into bigger plans by opening Sedore’s Roadhouse. Sedore’s Roadhouse was a lavish speakeasy which catered to the wealthy and the well-to-do in Youngstown. It was Sedore’s Roadhouse from 1929 to 1930.”
Viehe said that other roadhouse operations were popping up in rural areas at the time. He said that these roadhouses were on the outskirts of town, but were within driving distances for residents of Youngstown and Trumbull County. Viehe said that these roadhouses appealed to urban residents, but Sedore wanted to create something that appealed to the wealthy. Sedore’s vision was to create an upscale roadhouse.
Allan R. May of Cleveland wrote the 2011 book “Welcome to the Jungle Inn: The Story of the Mafia’s Most Infamous Gambling Den,” which details the birth and the downfall of this controversial venue. He said that the club competed with the Masury clubs, Hollyhock Gardens Night Club and the Gray Wolf Tavern, which were owned by the gangland figure Jimmy Munsene.
May said in an email interview that in 1936, voters in Liberty Township voted to abolish alcoholic beverages being served in public, but nine voters then incorporated Halls Corners to get around the rules and allow the Jungle Inn to operate.
Viehe said that Sedore was trying to construct a more adventurous plan from speakeasy to ballroom.
“It seemed like Prohibition was over, and Sedore wanted to create an upscale ballroom that appealed to the upper class,” he said. “I think he chose the term ‘Jungle Inn’ because it had a sensuous connotation. The jungle is a place where you can just let go and have fun.”
According to May, “Charles Sedore ran the club until the mid-1930s when Edward A. ‘Sheriff’ Flannigan, a gambler of Niles, moved in and brought a ‘gambling’ crowd with him. Sedore was reduced to overseeing the restaurant and bar operation, which was soon forced out completely.”
Viehe said that the Syrian-born Farah brothers came to Sedore to invest in the Jungle Inn when the brothers’ club, the Hilltop Club, closed in March of 1936. The Farah brothers reopened the Jungle Inn around 1946. Viehe said that the Farah brothers wanted to expand their gambling operation and wanted to create a mini-Las Vegas style casino, but minus the glitz, flashiness and glamour.
May said the Jungle Inn offered games such as keno, high-stakes poker, chuck-a-luck, craps, blackjack, roulette in addition to pinball and slot machines. He said that the Jungle Inn also offered bingo games.
“During the afternoon hours it was reported that being able to bet on the horse races around the county earned them $50,000 a day,” May said.
“At this point, we are now entering a period of post-war prosperity, and it was a good time for them to open an operation like this,” Viehe said. “At the Jungle Inn, during the day most of the customers were women. Jitneys, which were unofficial taxies, would come to downtown Youngstown during the day to pick people up and transport them from downtown Youngstown to the Jungle Inn. During the evening, the Jungle Inn attracted a male clientele. Inside the Jungle Inn, there were gunmen with tommy guns walking around in the walkway to make sure that no one was stealing any money. The Jungle Inn had a very high ceiling and these gunmen would look down on the gambling floor.”
The Jungle Inn attracted residents from a wide spectrum of areas. May said that locals frequented the Jungle Inn, as well as residents from Akron, Canton, Cleveland and residents from Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh.
“It was especially a big draw when gambling dens in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties came under fire,” May said. “Groups of gamblers would come by bus from Pennsylvania. In Youngstown, free transportation was provided from the Paddock Bar on West Federal Street four times daily.”
A venue of illegal activity could only last so long. The Jungle Inn was caught in its tracks on the second week of August 1949. May said that at the time, Frank J. Lausche was elected as governor. When the casino boom was at its height, Lausche set out to thwart these hubs of illegal gambling activities. After the Jungle Inn was seized on Aug. 12, other Ohio clubs that were instrumental in gambling were shut down as well.
During the late 1970s, the building that housed the Jungle Inn burned down. Don Hardin, resident of Hubbard and past president of the Hubbard Historical Society was also a firefighter for the Hubbard Fire Department. Hardin remembered getting called to the fire.
“It was 14 below zero, and the Liberty Fire Department called us to assist in putting out the fire,” Hardin said. “We went out at 1:30 a.m. to fight the fire and didn’t come back until 8 a.m. It was cold, and there were train tracks around there, and it was hard to get the trucks across to the fire.
“Fighting that fire was unpleasant,” he said. “There was lumber stored in this building, and it was an extremely hot fire.”
Hardin said that during the time of the fire, the property that had once been one of the most notorious gambling spots in Trumbull County was a storage place for a building company.