The Iron Inn is a historic hotel located in Crystal Falls, Iron County. Crystal Falls is situated in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is known for its rich history tied to the iron ore mining industry.
Iron County was once a significant producer of iron ore. The mining industry played a vital role in the local economy. The Iron Inn, like many establishments in the region, served the needs of travelers, miners, and other workers during the height of the mining boom.
February 25th, 1920 an event called the Wine Rebellion (part of the Rum Rebellion) took place. One month into the National Prohibition Act, federal agents packing 600 rounds of ammunition descended upon the city of Iron River to seize eight barrels of red wine.
In the early decades of the 1900s, Iron River was a full-tilt iron mining town. When iron was discovered there in 1851 the promise of jobs attracted hundreds of miners. Many of these miner were of Italian descent bring their heritage of home winemaking.
By the time Prohibition laws passed in 1920, a strong Italian community, along with its heritage of home winemaking, was thriving here. Iron River merchant John Scalcucci, and his brothers Stephen and Joseph, owned a grocery store. They catered to Italian miners and their families. The three-story building, which John bought in 1914, had a basement that stored the family’s grape press and wine barrels and a third-floor apartment. From the first floor, the Scalcucci family sold staples like bread, cheese and their homemade Chianti-style wine.
Miners often swung by the grocery store for food and drinks for the workday. Wine was often the beverage of choice. Miners knew the quality of the wine, which was much better than the water as this was before public water systems.
They were undeterred by the prohibiton laws. The government caught wind of their operation, Internal Revenue agents, supported by national guardsmen, were sent to Iron River from Chicago to seize “without due process of law” barrels of wine from their Virgil location cellar.
Martin McDonough, a local attorney, fought and won the case. Nationwide reports showcased McDonough’s heroic defiance and stand in the rebellion. On February 28, Michigan dropped its investigation into the Iron River Rebellion, and McDonough was hailed a hero.
Located at 202 West Adams, Iron River – Lat: 46.09240700/Long: -88.64028200
Erected in 1906, this hotel is said to be the first brick commercial building in the city. The Iron Inn is known for a Prohibition-era incident which occurred in February 1920. Here local attorney Martin McDonough challenged the right of federal Prohibition officer A. V. Dalrymple to arrest, without a warrant, people involved in a winemaking operation. This confrontation was part of the eight-day “Rum Rebellion” against federal policies of seizure relating to Prohibition. It resulted in the reaffirmation of due process in Iron County.
Learn more about the rich history of the Western Upper Peninsula.