Located in Blount County near the former resort town of Blount Springs, Bangor Cave is best known for its incarnation as a nightclub and gambling hall in the late 1930s. Some decades before that, however, it was a popular tourist destination for locals and for patrons of the mineral springs at the Blount Springs resort.
Discovered in the late nineteenth century, reportedly by state geologist Walter B. Jones, Bangor Cave is located about four miles northeast of Blount Springs. It occurs in a rock formation known as the Bangor Limestone, which dates to the Mississippian period (360 to 325 million years ago). The cave was formed as acidic groundwater percolated through small cracks and fissures in the limestone beds, which had become tilted during mountain-building periods in the Earth's geologic history. The cave ceiling still displays wavy patterns created by the flowing water. A 1933 Geological Survey of Alabama report suggests that the cave was formed at least in part by the settling of the cave's floor as a result of dissolution of the clay substrate below. Bangor Cave consists of seven chambers and is about 1,151 feet deep at its farthest point. The cave has three entrances, at least one of which was created artificially when the cave was used as a nightclub. The interior features some remaining stalagmites and stalactites, but the cave has suffered structural and cosmetic damage over the years from use and vandalism.
The cave has been well known since the late nineteenth century, with much of the visitor traffic coming from the resort town of Blount Springs. The surrounding area was the venue for Fourth of July celebrations, dances, picnics, and political rallies; tours also were conducted through the cave by candle and pitch-pine torch light. Band concerts were even held in the main chamber of the cave, which measures about 350 feet long by 57 feet wide, and is approximately 20 feet high. A spur of the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad, terminating at the Bangor station, carried people almost to the door of the cave. When the Blount Springs resort closed down in 1915 after a major fire, the cave was generally abandoned.
In the mid-1930s, property owner J. Breck Musgrove persuaded a group of investors to fund the construction of a nightclub in the cave. A new entrance to the cave was blasted open using dynamite, and a bandstand and bar were carved from the stone. The floor of the first chamber was leveled with the addition of concrete and covered with linoleum, and the second chamber was later turned into a lounge for women patrons. A locked and heavily guarded room housed slot machines, craps tables, roulette wheels, and card tables. Reportedly, the total construction cost for the nightclub was around $70,000, which the owners claimed that they made back in the first few days of operation.
Raids and legal proceedings over the cave's operation began almost as soon as the nightclub was opened in 1937, with Gov. Bibb Graves ordering the local sheriff to shut down the club. The battle continued among the state, the county, and the owners until January 1939, when the nightclub shut its doors for good. In January 1940, the wooden structures inside the cave burned.
Spelunkers and others continued to visit the cave over the years, but it became the target of vandals, with the walls becoming
covered in graffiti and the initial chambers littered with trash. The bar and bandstand areas are still evident, but most
other signs of the once-thriving nightclub have disappeared. At present, the cave is held privately and is not open to the
public. No development of the cave is planned.
Daniel, Thomas W. Jr. and William D. Coe. Exploring Alabama Caves. Bulletin 102. Tuscaloosa: Geological Survey of Alabama Bulletin, 1973.
Jones, Pam. "Bangor Cave Casino." Alabama Heritage 81 (Summer 2006): 6-7.
James P. Kaetz
Published November 29, 2010
Last updated March 26, 2013