The owner of a local restaurant recently went on a treasure hunt in his own building. Many of you have probably been to the well known York Street Café in Newport, but you may not have known about the buildings connection to Northern Kentucky's gangland past. Local 12 news reporter Rich Jaffe shows us how the historic building's mob history is just one of the things that makes it, "So Cincinnati."
A few years ago York Street Café owner Terry Cunningham says he was approached by two old men in their 90's carrying hammers. They wanted his permission to tear apart the banisters in his building. The men told him they worked there in the old mob days and used to stash cash inside the posts when police would raid the building.
Intrigued, Cunningham told them no, then recently decided to take a look for himself. "As we go up we're gonna knock them all off, as we go up you'll notice each piece of wood is different on each one, they don't match some are bigger some are smaller, all different colors, every thing matches except the tops so there might be some legitimacy in what the guys told me."
Newport's history as a mob town is well known. Starting in the 1930's and running into the early 1960's experts say there were at least 54 illegal casino's in this town alone. "This was really a test market for Las Vegas, in Newport and Covington there was a lot of stuff on the fly, so this whole image of stuffing money in the newel post doesn't surprise me at all."
Post by post, Cunningham tapped, pried, opened and looked with the aid of a snake camera, "Yeah there's nothing down that one."
Undaunted the search continued post by post floor by floor. "Right now we're on the third floor where the gambling took place. Right behind me there are slots in the door where you had to give them a password to get into the gambling, when the cops came this is one of the places they'd hide their money."
When Geraldo Rivera opened Capone's vault, he found nothing, but on the next to last post on the Café staircase, Cunningham hit paydirt, sort of. "I see money...oh my gosh look..." It wasn't the fortune Cunningham was hoping for--a total of 33 dollars in old currency, one bill from 1934, all old silver certificates, but what this club owner really found was a piece of history that's So Cincinnati.
Terry Cunningham tells us he'll probably frame the old bills and hang them on the wall as just one more connection to the building's history. He also tells us that since he bought the building he's discovered there are not one, not two, but three safes hidden away. But, unfortunately they are empty too.