Here’s another glimpse into Woodstock’s colorful past. I wish The Rat Hole still existed. What fun it would be to drop in for a drink and rehash last night’s Republican candidates’ debate. Many things have changed since the 1800’s, but apparently politics is not one of them.
This is the earliest known photograph of Woodstock. The east side of the Square along Benton Street is depicted, circa late 1840s. The “Rat Hole” saloon is shown as the second building from the left.
This building was originally constructed in 1846 as a public building to provide room for county offices and records. At the time, the political leaders of the county were mostly members of the pre-Civil War Democratic Party. It was nicknamed the “Rat Hole” because in the winter of 1847 there was a heavy wind which suddenly lifted the tin roof from the county office building and carried it some distance away. The county officers, in their offices at the time, rushed out with all possible haste. As they came forth they were greeted with a shout by Henry Petrie, a merchant who exclaimed “See the damned rats crawl out of their holes!” Petrie was a Whig of very pronounced opinions and had no sympathy with the Democratic Party to which the county officers belonged. The building later became a saloon and was known as the “Rat Hole” ever since.
The “Rat Hole” was completely destroyed in a fire in 1893. Woodstock jeweler, Marvin Sherman, purchased the property following the fire and erected a new brick building with three storefronts. The corner store where the “Rat Hole” was once located became his jewelry store. The property was later purchased by the State Bank of Woodstock and was later BMO Harris Bank.