Jimmy’s Place was best casino between New York and Havana

Like a lot of stories, this one starts with a family member. After all, my family has been in Washington since the early 1800s.

A distant cousin I never knew emailed me about a blog entry on his grandfather and my grand uncle (which most people wrongly say great uncle) named Fallas Broche, who spent six weeks in the U.S. Army before discharged because World War I ended while he was in boot camp. Fallas was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The cousin gave me some updated information on his deceased grandparents. I double checked with my mom and she said, “Oh Aunt Roan was really nice to kids. Always dressed well with a lot of makeup.

“She worked at a casino in Bladensburg.”

What?

And so another interesting story begins. Roan was a black jack dealer at Jimmy’s Place, owned by James A. LaFontaine. It was said to be the nicest underground gambling joint between New York and Havana right on the city line and Bladensburg, Md.

There were nine roadhouses of sorts on the Eastern Ave. border where more than a century earlier the British defeated American troops in the War of 1812 and went on to burn the White House. Jimmy was so on the border that if city cops tried to bust the joint the customers ran out the other side into Maryland where they couldn’t be touched and vice versa.

They say the cluster of clubs is where someone thirsty could wet his beak during Prohibition and hear some of the best music of any sort through live bands right into the 1970s. Chick Hall’s Surf Club was also well known. Hall even played guitar with singer Patsy Cline.

But my Aunt Roan worked at the Maryland Athletic Club, which everybody called Jimmy’s Place from 1921 through 1947 when closing. More than 600 people filled Jimmy’s playing roulette, faro and table games.

It seemed everybody knew Jimmy’s. There’s even a Sports Illustrated article on it.

Jimmy died in 1949 and the casino was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.The photo above is a gas station on the site of where I believe Jimmy’s once stood.

My Aunt Roan moved to Los Angeles where my cousin said she paid her bills while in her 70s playing poker at legal card casinos.

She sounds like aces to me.

 

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