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There have been many rumors about tunnels under “High Third,” Minot’s Red Light District. One hears rumors about bars and clubs that had escape tunnels in the basement for quick evacuation in case of a raid by the police.
Again, in interviewing people back in the mid 80’s for the Ward County Centennial, I was told that “High Third” in its hey-day had many such tunnels. I was also informed that at one time a person could start at 4th Avenue (Burdick Expressway) and go to 1st Avenue or Stearns Motors (now I. Keatings) without ever going outside. The route would consist of basement tunnels between houses and businesses as well as above ground passages between buildings. I have been investigating the history of Minot’s High Third. I very seriously doubt if this was true. In the days of prohibition, many of the addresses on Third Street were houses inhabited by regular law abiding citizens.
I created a map of Third Street with all the address, block by block, from 1st Avenue to 4th Avenue. I researched every Polk Directory I could find between1930 to 1962. This amounted to over half of the years. I have a map with names of people and/or businesses for every year I found. I also cross-referenced these maps and color-coded them with police reports and other information I could find. Red was any address that had any connection to illegal activity. I might add, there is a lot of red during some years on the maps.
True or not about the tunnels, I don’t know but the people I interviewed 25 years ago are no longer with us to ask. I don’t think there were as many tunnels as most people like to believe. The stories seem to get embellished over time.
Some of the houses on Third Street had basements and sub-basements. These served as escape routes out of these houses. During the days of Prohibition, the City Hall in Downtown Minot also was the home to the police and the fire department. Apparently when the police were planning raids on Third Street, the fire fighters, who lived above the police department, would eavesdrop and call ahead to the establishments and warn them before the police arrived.
I believe one thing that confuses many people are the steam tunnels in downtown Minot. In the early days, most of downtown Minot was heated with steam from the NSP Steam Plant located on Central Avenue. There was a network of tunnels under the streets of Downtown Minot to service the steam pipes running through them. The “tunnels” were barely tall enough for a man to walk through.