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About Little Bohemia

LITTLE BOHEMIA was built as a hot dog stand in 1932, with outdoor seating, a drive up window, an annual ritual of making sauerkraut, and a Speak Easy in the basement. Folks would knock on the back door and go directly to the basement. One evening while closing up, the owner was paid a visit by a couple of Al Capone’s men. They held him at gunpoint, warning him he’d better get his liquor from Capone or else! The men were chased off by an employee who was able to sneak out to his truck and get his shotgun; he surprised them; fortunately they never returned.

Located in the heart of “Little Bohemia” as the area was known and being of Bohemian descent, the original owner named his business in honor of the Bohemian community that had settled on the west end of the city. Little Bohemia immediately became the gathering place on Saturday nights. At the end of prohibition, the building was expanded to include a tavern and its popularity continued to grow into a Traverse City landmark, now an icon and a premier destination in the city’s West End District. This traditional Michigan tavern has stood the test of time and still maintains its original name.

Little Bohemia is blessed with fame in its own right, as the 2nd oldest tavern in Traverse City, but basks in the glory of the late Sir Walter Hagen. The golf legend, who settled on Long Lake after he retired, made a daily stop to “hold court” or play a few games of bumper pool and of course have a few drinks. Mr. Hagen lovingly referred to Little Bohemia as his “home away from home” and often spoke of it during his travels. In 1961, just as he walked off the course from his 1st British Open win, Arnold Palmer received a call from Walter Hagen; a call that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. “The biggest thrill I got when I set a British Open record of 276 strokes at Troon, was to have Walter Hagen phone me from Little Bo’s in Traverse City to congratulate me,” said Palmer. “I didn’t even know The Haig knew I was alive until then. So when I went to Traverse City to honor him near the end of his life I had to go and visit this place he called his home.”  The actual interview can be seen on YouTube; just search Arnold Palmer.

TRAVERSE CITY was growing and with a 2nd expansion in 1947, so did Little Bohemia. A much needed renovation in 2005 included a gas kitchen, new plumbing, wiring, roof, floor & ceiling.  The famous Bo Burger, named “Best Burger in Northern Michigan” (a local favorite since 1969) and the famous Olive Burger, named “Best Olive Burger in TC”, along with an expanded menu that includes many award winning items, made with local ingredients, brought new life to the neighborhood tavern.

STORIES Seems everyone has a story about Little Bohemia. This one is about the Nelsonville Block Bricks at the main entrance. During the 2005 renovation a portion of West Front Street was dug up and bricks baring the name, “Nelsonville Block” were discovered beneath the layers of asphalt and concrete. A local resident knowing the area history said the bricks were at least 85 years old and could be as much as 125 years old. The bricks nearly ended up in a landfill, but they were saved by a family member who had a better fate in mind for the special bricks. 35 were salvaged (representing 35½ years that Little Bohemia had been in the family), cleaned and placed in the new sidewalk along with the letters L&B (actual wooden letters that once adorned the front of the building) and the year 2005, securing them as a permanent part of Little Bohemia history. 

NELSONVILLE BRICK COMPANY, Hocking Valley, Ohio: The Hocking Valley, known for its abundance of rich deposits of superior quality clay, shale and coal, provided the perfect environment for commercial production of brick.  In 1871, Nelsonville Brick Company was one of the first companies to emerge as a manufacturer. They produced Nelsonville Block, Hallwood Block, Hocking Block and Star Bricks. In 1880, more kilns and stacks were added to keep up with the twenty-five million blocks and bricks demand each year. One particular brick that was very popular was known as the “king of all pavers”, the Nelsonville Block. The salt glazed surface made it watertight and gave it a distinct and attractive finish. In 1904, the Nelsonville Block won First Prize at the World's Fair in St. Louis, MO. In 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ordered up 3.2 million bricks to convert the dirt track to brick, giving the racetrack the popular nickname, “The Brickyard.” The racing surface has been asphalted over but there still remains a 3 foot wide strip of the original Nelsonville Block pavers at the start/finish line. In 1937, The Great Depression, combined with the use of concrete, led to the demise of the Nelsonville Brick Company. Although the main plant is gone, a few kilns and stacks still remain. Source: Nelsonville Brick Company.

IN 1969 Eugene and Phyllis Freund purchased Little Bohemia from the original owners, Frank and Corrine Kucera. In 2005, their children took over running the family business. We thank you for your patronage and we hope to see you again soon. Visit our website at& LilBo.com

Home of Traverse City’s first and only hand painted 4-season mural by local artist Barbara A. Wilson.