The Story of a Cape Cod Speakeasy: Casa Madrid

Photo of Casa Madrid from the 1930’s, courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Prohibition was a law which made the production and sale of alcohol illegal in the United States.  The 18th Amendment to the Constitution it was on the books from January 1920 to December 1933.  During this time, however, despite it being illegal, there were still ways for people to enjoy their favorite liquors.  One of the most well-known is that of the ‘speakeasy.’  These were hidden spots where one could get a drink.  Cape Cod was no stranger to speakeasies with perhaps the most famous of these still standing to this day in South Yarmouth.  It was known as Casa Madrid and this is its story.

Situated today on Run Pond Road this stucco building stands out like a sore thumb among the rows of shingled classic Cape Cod homes.  It was constructed in early 1933 at a cost of $125,000 ($2.4 million in 2019) and promoted as a dinner and dancing establishment associated with the Yarmouth Beach Club.  The yellow stucco and red tiles were meant to catch the eye of passersby as was the intention of its creator, local realtor Alex Finn and his partner Oscar Skinner.  The Spanish-style was considered entirely new for Cape Cod at the time.  There were roads leading to the areas around Casa Madrid with the Nantucket Sound beaches merely a few hundred yards south, yet the establishment would be surrounded by trees for the most part.  Finn promised indoor and outdoor dancing with an enclosed courtyard with early estimates of the building being able to accommodate 3,000 people.

Casa Madrid was meant to be the destination for dinner and dancing on the Cape with entrance via ticket only.   It was high class with proper dress required to get in as well.  The grand opening of June 30, 1933 was to be attended by those sent invitations only, mainly members of the Beach Club and other high ranking locals.  Membership had more than its share of perks with access to the lockers in the bathhouse, hammocks, swings, use of the handball and squash courts, along with use of canoes, rowboats, speedboats, and even a seaplane.  The opening was a rousing success and it appeared that Cape Cod had its newest ‘place to be.’

However a mere six weeks into its run Casa Madrid had its most famous night of all.  On the night of Sunday August 13, 1933 a group of thirty-five law enforcement officers under the direction of Lt. James Hughes and Assistant Attorney General George B. Lourie crashed the festivities at Casa Madrid after being tipped off about potential laws being broken there.  Although some of the 300 guests present were eating and dancing when the officers arrived a great many more were found to be drinking at one of three bars inside the building while others were illegally gambling.

The raid was a week in planning and carried out with pinpoint precision.  The troopers assembled in Norwell and made their way to the Cape accompanied by several Boston based newspaper reporters who had been tipped off.  Upon entering the establishment some of the patrons at Casa Madrid mistook the uniform-clad troopers as performers however this was obviously not the case.    In a clean sweep the raid seized a truck load of liquor, gambling equipment and furnishings including a roulette wheel valued at $25,000 ($492,000 in 2019), $7,360 ($145,000 in 2019) in cash on gambling tables, and resulted in the arrest of thirty-four people including owners Finn and Skinner.  In addition to those developments rumors had it that many prominent citizens including Boston mayor James Curley were in attendance that night, with him escaping through a window before being caught.  

By pleading not guilty the club was allowed to remain open.  On August 29th Assistant Attorney General Lourie personally led a second raid on Casa Madrid.  The police used a sledgehammer to break down the door to a room which they said had previously housed gambling equipment yet found nothing this time.  The club was operating within the law with more than a hundred guests eating and dancing.  Before leaving the establishment Lourie and his troopers were offered dinner by Alex Finn which they declined.  The club remained open through Labor Day when it closed for the season.

On September 6, 1933 the cases against those arrested at Casa Madrid were heard at the Barnstable Court House with most charges being dropped or continued although both Finn and Skinner were fined $50 ($1,000 in 2019) for maintaining a gaming house and selling alcohol.  Massachusetts Attorney General Joseph Warner pressured Yarmouth selectmen to shut down the controversial establishment.  The charter of the Yarmouth Beach Club was revoked due to its connection with Casa Madrid, as a copy of its charter was found on the wall of the club during the initial police raid.  Near the end of October 1933 the Casa Madrid case was closed with the gambling paraphernalia being destroyed but the money seized being returned to the claimants. 

Before the start of the 1934 season Prohibition was repealed which would seemingly be good news for Casa Madrid.  However due to the problems it caused while alcohol was still illegal Yarmouth selectmen initially refused to give a liquor license to the club.  They relented in May 1934 when Alex Finn sold his property to Alphonse Rossini, Finn would also liquidate all of his other holdings on Cape Cod shortly thereafter.  Local residents pushed to have the liquor license revoked and after a fire destroyed two cottages and damaged two others on the Casa Madrid property in April 1935 it appeared as though the club was doomed to fail.


Casa Madrid would again be sold, to Peter Panesis, for the 1935 season.  It opened July 3rd to a raucous crowd of over 500 with NBC recording artist Betty Bryant on hand to sing.  Despite the first night success the 1935 season was a relative loss for Panesis and the property was sold once again.  New ownership would see modest success opening the club up for banquets and dances throughout the remainder of the 1930’s.  It would remain a steady albeit unspectacular presence in South Yarmouth until its initial closing in 1962.  Three years later it would reopen as a respectable restaurant with no live entertainment and a 9pm closing time.  The renaissance lasted only four seasons as stringent conditions put on the restaurant by the Board of Appeals on their liquor license renewal led to Casa Madrid throwing in the towel in 1969.

In the mid-1970’s new owners tried and failed to concert Casa Madrid into a musical museum.  It would see new life as a teen crisis center beginning in 1989.  Despite being a relatively unsuspecting establishment for nearly all of its thirty-plus years in operation the legend of Casa Madrid will always be tied to the infamous raid on it during its days as a Prohibition speakeasy.  Though nobody associated with those days of illegal gambling and booze in the South Yarmouth woods remain the Casa Madrid building itself still stands on Run Pond Road.  With Smuggler’s Beach not far away one can traverse those few thousand feet and imagine what it was like during the brief time in 1933 when Casa Madrid was a happening hot spot. 

By Christopher Setterlund
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy