The Rathskeller’s Sobering Ties to Prohibition
On the single most important day in American history, December 5, 1933, the United States officially ratified the Twenty-first Amendment.
Prohibition, and what must have been a long 13 years, finally came to an end. Steering State College towards its natural (mostly drunken) homeostasis, The All-American Rathskeller — known then as The Rathskeller & Gardens — opened its doors three days after the amendment was passed.
“The Skeller” is both State College’s oldest bar and the oldest continuously-opened bar in Pennsylvania. To put its age into perspective, it opened during The Great Depression, and eight years before World War II began. Since its inception, we’ve had 13 different US Presidents and 9 different Penn State Presidents. The Skeller has seen three Penn State football coaches prior to Joe Paterno, six undefeated teams, and two National Championship teams.
Additionally, there were fewer than 5,000 students at Penn State in 1933, and the earth may or may not have been flat. In all seriousness, College Ave. may still have been transitioning from a dirt to paved road.
Skip ahead to 2013, and The Skeller continues to survive among a host of hot, sticky, sweaty clubs and average bars with little to no character. With customer-etched tables, tall wooden booths, and stone and brick walls covered in old black-and-white photos, you can taste 80 years of history without ever ordering a drink. Yahoo recently published a story about America’s best college bars, and sure enough, The Skeller made the list.
In a way, The All-American Rathskeller is a hidden gem, sometimes in the shadows of seemingly more popular bars like Cafe and The Phyrst.
However, The Skeller’s vibe, personality, and traditions are second to none in the State College bar scene. Through events like “Case Study” (or “Case Race”), where The Skeller attempted to and succeeded in breaking the Guinness World Record for cases of beer consumed in one day, the bar has firmly placed itself in the heart and soul of State College.
As other drinking-based establishments come and go in State College, The Skeller continues to live on.
But reading about this bar doesn’t do it justice. Its sense of history and its role in what State College was, what it is, and what it will become is only experienced by being there. It’s something special for sure. Pay it a well-deserved visit, check out the old pictures lining the walls, and heck, even order a drink.
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