Wits End Saloon (originally known as The Bumphus Tavern) was founded in 1867 by Civil War veteran Jedediah Bumphus. Bumphus, a Maryland native, was a decorated captain in the Union Army and a not so decorated corporal in the Confederate army. As a border state, Maryland had sympathizers on both sides and Jedediah offered his allegiance to whichever army his current girlfriend preferred.
After the war, armed with a dream to serve cheap whiskey and freshly made raccoon sandwiches to the locals, Jedediah took what little money he had saved, purchased a small tract of land a couple of miles north of the Baltimore County seat of Towson (now known as Towson) and built his tavern.
However, success did not come easy for Jedediah Bumphus. Surrounded by dense forest and with no accessible roads or Groupon offerings, it would be nearly two years before Jedediah saw his first customer.
But the ever optimistic Bumphus never wavered in his belief that one day his tavern would become a huge success. And how right he was! By 1881, people were coming from all over to sample his assortment of whiskeys and indulge in his freshly made sandwiches which now included beaver, deer, woodchuck and something Bumphus claimed was bear.
Bumphus retired in 1908 and sold the tavern to Charles Greenson, a Baltimore City haberdasher who enjoyed getting men drunk much more than he enjoyed clothing them. Greenson kept the name The Bumphus Tavern until 1919 when it finally occurred to him that he could change it- thus was born The Bumphus Saloon.
Unbeknownst to Greenson, who wasn't much of a reader and therefore unaware of the Anti- Saloon League and the Volstead Act, the era known as Prohibition was only a few months away. Starting January 1st, 1920 owning anything with the word “saloon” in it really became frowned upon by local law enforcement. Greenson, a law abiding citizen, got out of the booze business and The Bumphus Saloon became The Bumphus Haberdashery operating as a clothing store until the act was repealed in 1933. The next day Greenson immediately went back into the booze business.
The Greenson family held the popular saloon until 1964 when Charles' grandson James lost the keys. Locked out of his own bar, angry and heavily intoxicated, James began screaming "this place stole my childhood! This place stole my life!" ... and set it on fire- burning it to the ground.
The legendary saloon was forgotten and a giant cement structure owned by the John Deere Tractor Company was built atop the site. After many years John Deere vacated the location which was then turned into separate businesses including the home of one of the nation's best comedy clubs -Magooby's Joke House.
It was in the back offices of Magooby’s late in 2011 when owner Andrew Unger, hard at work playing "Call of Duty" at 3am, noticed the floor in his office wasn't exactly level. While others might have shrugged and gone home Andrew, a noted obsessive-compulsive, proceeded to rip up the carpeting, break up the cement underneath (yeah, weird he just happened to have a jack hammer lying around, huh?) and found a secret trap door. Lifting the door and descending a long forgotten wooden ladder into the darkness below, Andrew found a large room with old chairs, tables, glassware and a bar. It seems that Charles Greenson wasn’t so law abiding after all and had been running an illegal speakeasy beneath his men's clothing store. Andrew had found it!
Wits End Saloon opened in December 2013 and uses much of the same wood and brick from the original structure, including Mr. Greenson’s original speakeasy bar.
They say the place might be haunted and at night, if you listen close, you might even hear ole' Jedediah Bumphus himself say "hey, who wants some more whiskey and beaver?"