Toast to Chelsea’s Past: Walking Tour Uncorks City’s Boozy History


Chelsea, Michigan, renowned for its Jiffy Mix legacy, the artistic ambiance of the Purple Rose Theatre, and an ever-evolving culinary culture, is about to dive into its libation-laden past.

This summer, the Chelsea Area Historical Society (CAHS) is serving up a refreshingly honest look at the city's heritage through their newly-minted walking tour, “Boozy History of Chelsea: Saloons, Pubs & Bars.” On the menu for Saturdays, June 10 and 17, is a heady blend of legal and illegal imbibing, tales of tavern tomfoolery, and the evolution of Chelsea's beverage-saturated landscape.

Tour connoisseur and orchestrator Jasen King bubbles with enthusiasm for the museum's innovative "pub crawl." Delving into former board member Cary Church’s research and collaborating with museum volunteer Mary Keaton, he has tapped into a keg of narratives from the 1850s to the 1990s. These effervescent tales uncork a wild and free-flowing past chock-full of political conspiracies, gambling, harrowing homicides, and marathon melee.

"Chelsea has a fascinating history,” King remarks. "Much of the past has been forgotten, but this tour will tell the stories of legal and illegal drinking, tavern escapades, the temperance movement and prohibition, and how the landscape and demand for alcohol morphed into today’s sensibility.”

But Chelsea wasn't always the laissez-faire libation lover's paradise. At times, rules and regulations were lax, yet influential state politicians like Frank Glazier weren't afraid to grasp the beer-soaked reins to address the drinking and gambling issues of their time.

Jan Bernath, CAHS board president and Chelsea local, recounts the city's "bar scene" during her childhood in the 1940s and ‘50s. Bernath eagerly anticipates uncovering more about the city’s spirited past.

“I always thought Seitz's on West Middle Street was the only bar ever in town,” Bernath recalls. “When the idea came up to develop a historic pub crawl, I was all in. I’m thrilled with the new tour and the stories and secrets behind Chelsea's familiar storefronts that are still standing.”

Given that much of the tour traverses the city's social district, the itinerary also includes pit stops for potables. Participants are free to meander with their preferred libation.

Tickets for this intoxicating tour, “Boozy Chelsea: Saloons, Pubs & Bars,” are available on Eventbrite. Admission is $20 for the 90-minute saunter, with a special pour for museum members. A combined ticket option with membership is also available for $25.

CAHS, headquartered in the 1853 Boyd House across from the Chelsea Depot, aims to gather and preserve Chelsea's history, enlighten the public, and champion the preservation of historic buildings and sites for future generations. For more information, visit
or call 734.476.2010.

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