Doc Hamilton’s Barbecue Pit


908 12th Ave.

John H. “Doc” Hamilton started running speakeasies on East Union Street in the early ’20s but after his first place was closed down in 1924 by federal agents he opened his most illustrious establishment, Doc Hamilton’s Barbecue Pit, at 908 12th Ave. in 1926. A celebrity whose picture was often in the newspaper, Hamilton was usually described in a racist tone as the “genial” and “smiling” proprietor of a club where bootleg liquor and gambling were provided for an A list crowd that on any given night might include the mayor, a judge or the police chief and sometimes all three. Limousines pulled up in the wee hours to the club’s awning, where guests were greeted by a uniformed doorman, Napoleon. An alarm system was in place inside to ward off raids, but if the police did come, “Doc” usually paid everyone’s bail. Inside the club, Doc could be seen barbecuing ribs and chicken (his sauce was renowned) and Oscar Holden was often at the piano, usually accompanying a singer. Harrassed relentlessly by the feds and the police, Doc eventually was forced out of business in 1931 and sent to McNeil Island federal penitentiary, a sentence that broke his spirit. He did not return to the nightclub business. Jackson Street After Hours (print only).