The building still stands on K Street NW where Harold Gray and some buddies drank whiskey during the time when alcohol was an illegal drug.

The brew was delivered by rumrunners who picked up their loads in then-rural Arlington and Prince George's counties, dodging hijackers on the back roads and police on city streets.

Once inside Washington, the bootleggers headed for some of the hundreds of speak-easies that dotted the city, places where thousands of Washingtonians found a way around the much-despised law that prohibited the manufacture, distribution and drinking of alcohol.

"We hardly knew there was a prohibition law," said Gray, 86, a retired public relations specialist. "We'd just sit in the parlor of {a man's} apartment and have a drink. It was mostly whiskey, and he served it in coffee cups in case the police came in. It would look like we were just having a social."

It was 60 years ago tomorrow that the speak-easies closed down and the bars opened again in Washington. Then, as now, the seat of the federal government was the proving ground for efforts to legislate drinking habits and stem illegal intoxication.

The alcohol ban was imposed here in 1917, three years before the 18th Amendment turned the rest of the country dry, and ended Feb. 28, 1934, three months after it was lifted elsewhere. How, when and where Washingtonians would imbibe were carefully scripted by Capitol Hill lawmakers who wanted the District to be a model city of "real temperance."

The legacy of the Prohibition era extends into today. Bootleggers, named for early entrepreneurs who carried whiskey flasks in their boots, still can be found in some neighborhoods, selling to anyone who needs a drink when bars and restaurants are closed. Illegal stills continue to operate in a few areas of Virginia -- avoiding federal alcohol taxes.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the District and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs are considering new restrictions on alcohol, ranging from a moratorium on liquor licenses to registering beer kegs, even as policy-makers seriously debate legalizing other drugs.

As with the illicit drug trade today, legislators trying to rid society of alcohol in the 1920s found their goal elusive.

More than a decade after Washington went officially dry, an estimated 5,000 bootleggers were in business, some of them reportedly concealing their bottles in the thick hedges that surrounded the White House. Throughout the city, customers could choose from more than 2,000 speak-easies.

"The police and agents didn't come around and raid too much," said Barry Wilder, 82, of Baltimore. "If they did, you could count on them not coming back for two or three months."

Wilder, who began work as a liquor distributor when Prohibition ended and who still has a route in the District, said few of the suppliers or drinkers were ever in danger.

"The police couldn't enforce the liquor laws then, and they can't enforce the drug laws now," he said.

Speak-easies were so popular and residents were so willing to defy the law that a federal agent told a reporter in 1928: "If there were an arrest every hour in the day and night and 24 places were closed a day, 24 new places would open on the morrow."

One speak-easy was on a 25-foot motor launch anchored in the Potomac River about 15 feet from shore. Customers reached the boat by a gangplank. When police were sighted, the boat simply moved.

'All You Had to Do Was Know Somebody'

Bettie Jackson McCauley, 94, remembers the speak-easies -- "Honey, there were lots and lots of them" -- in what was then segregated Washington. In and around the U Street corridor, known then as the Black Broadway, speak-easies opened in houses and former bars.

"All you had to do was know somebody and you could get in," she said. "I had dates, and we got all dressed up. They wouldn't let you in dressed any old way."

McCauley, a retired domestic worker, said the best speak-easies had music, and she would dance all night with her date to the sound of a player piano.

There was never a worry about arrests, she said, because it seemed as though everyone in Washington drank illegally.

"Those times were much better than now," she said. "We didn't have to lock our doors or worry about people on the street."

Gray recalled that after his graduation from George Washington University in 1930, he and his friends visited two speak-easies in downtown Washington where the price of whiskey was less than a dollar.

"There was Big Joe's speak-easy, right near 15th and L streets, on the backside of where the Capitol Hilton is now," he said. "He was a big, burly fellow of Italian descent. . . . These places were respectable, just not legal."

Around the corner at 1520 K Street, now the home of a strip-bar and a comedy club, was a residential building where a young black man ran a speak-easy out of the living room of his third-floor apartment, Gray said.

"He was a very cordial fellow," Gray said. "He served good drinks."

At the time, there were a few places in Washington where the races mixed easily: Griffith Stadium, where everyone cheered the Senators, the jazz clubs along U Street and the speak-easies.

The illegal clubs were such a part of the city's landscape that a group opposed to Prohibition, called The Crusaders, distributed a map showing 200 speak-easies scattered throughout the city that had been raided, including several in federally owned buildings and a couple near a police precinct station and the local prohibition enforcement office.

Members of Congress, who brought the city and the nation the legislation to end the manufacture, possession and drinking of alcoholic beverages, were reported to have 500 bootleggers competing for their business. Just Look for the Green Hat

One of them became widely known by his nickname after his arrest following five years of sales to the House side of the Hill.

George L. Cassiday, the Man With the Green Hat, peddled alcohol to members of Congress from 1920 to 1930, at their invitation.

Working with protection from House members, Cassiday said, he delivered bottles of alcohol concealed in briefcases every weekday. A police officer followed him one day on a delivery, however. Cassiday was arrested, but the congressman to whom he was delivering was not charged.

"I was wearing a light green felt hat at the time," Cassiday wrote in a 1930 newspaper article. "When the newspapermen asked Sergeant-at-Arms Joe Rodgers about the incident, he said 'a man with a green hat' had brought the briefcase."

Cassiday said he served a six-month sentence and went back to work on the Hill for another five years -- this time selling only to senators.

Many local residents skipped the bootlegger and mixed their own brew at home, often gin in a bathtub or beer in old soda bottles. Others made wine and liquor.

According to Harry Sembekos, 80, many of his relatives were in the business of making a cognac, called mastiha, and ouzo, a Greek liqueur. He recalled hearing about middle-of-the-night deliveries of five-gallon jugs of alcohol to his mother's cousin at Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. Old Lady Helen, as she was known, was a widow and had four children to raise, he said.

"All the Greek drunks used to go there to buy half-pints," said Sembekos, a retired dentist. "My father never let me go over there."

In Prince George's and Arlington counties, entrepreneurs distilled corn whiskey or applejack for export to the District. Internal Revenue Service officials said that 2,000 gallons of whiskey was smuggled into the District each day.

Delivery drivers had to worry about highway robbers stealing their cargo and then police and federal agents waiting for them at the border. Many equipped their trucks with smoke-screen devices to help elude pursuit.

For Many, Prohibition Was Big Payday

The usual pay for runners was $50 for delivering 300 gallons in five-gallon jugs -- $25 each -- to the buyer. It took two trips a night, and the runner's pay was about eight times the average wage for a teacher or federal employee in 1930.

"The distillers were getting so rich, and the government was just losing so much money," Wilder said. "The bootleggers controlled their territory, and they made a fortune, the same as the drug dealers do today. But the government is the one making the money on liquor now with those huge taxes."

The battle took a toll on law enforcement officers and local residents, although it was mild compared with the drug war today.

In 1929, the D.C. police superintendent told Congress that one officer had been killed when he tried to arrest a known bootlegger in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, three residents were killed in separate accidents when hit by rumrunners' cars, and 13 officers were injured while chasing the delivery cars.

By 1933, everyone was talking repeal. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had won on a campaign to end the Depression and to make alcohol legal again, signed the repeal of the 18th Amendment at the end of his first year in office. The whole country -- minus the District -- celebrated.

Washingtonians would have to wait for Congress to pass separate legislation making the city a liquor-consuming model for the rest of the country.

Duty as role models didn't stop Washingtonians from embracing the new era when the liquor ban was lifted at midnight Feb. 28, 1934.

Bartenders couldn't begin serving until midnight, when D.C. police roared along icy streets to hand-deliver each of the 200 new liquor licenses for a special two-hour celebration of legal drinking.

"Impatient customers . . . beat a joyous refrain on glassware and tabletops and sent up a cheer as the first cork popped and the first waiter rushed in to fill orders given in advance," according to an account in The Washington Post at the time.

The following morning, 175 retail liquor stores opened, with lines forming at many of them.

With Legal Booze, a Lot of New Rules

When the bars finally opened 60 years ago, customers who remembered the earlier legal days of drinking found a lot of changes.

For the first time, women could order a drink. Men and women had to be seated to drink, however, because standing at the bar was too much of a reminder of the old saloon days.

Customers could not walk with a drink in hand; a waiter had to carry the glass from bar to table.

And ordering a drink at the bar became an act of trust because no bottles could be displayed and drinks were mixed out of sight of the customer.

The big Washington hotels once again began offering dance orchestras along with the now-legal alcohol. Gray was one of the many who flocked to the Mayflower and the Wardman Park.

"The orchestra was a big treat," he said. "But in Washington, you had to close at midnight. They were very strict about the rules. They'd play 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' and the waitresses would start grabbing the drinks, and the joint was closed."

A map distributed by an anti-liquor group called The Crusaders purported to show locations of speak-easies that D.C. police raided in 1931, including some near the Anti-Saloon League and the Prohibition Bureau; starred spots indicated raids on government property. Below left, officials after a raid in the District; below right, George L. Cassiday, known as "the Man With the Green Hat," who said he sold alcohol to members of Congress from 1920 to 1930.

D.C. police hand-delivered each of 200 liquor permits just after midnight Feb. 28, 1934; the first went to the National Press Club. In a ceremony broadcast on radio, District Commissioner George E. Allen, right center, and Liquor Board members presented the permit to club President W.C. Murphy Jr. That night, the Gingham Club, below left, began serving liquor. The federal customhouse in Georgetown, below right, is shown with its first consignment of whiskey in 18 years in a picture published March 10, 1934.