14. Whatever Happened at the Green Flash Boarding House?

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

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The Green Flash Boarding House (also called the Green Flash Inn or just Green Flash) was a great source of discussion, rumor, and misinformation during Prohibition and for years afterward. It was originally the mansion for the Covenhoven Plantation, set back from Blawenburg Road (now Rt. 518) at Mountain View Road. The building had seen a lot of history as the Covenhovens and their ancestors tilled the fields and eked a living off their farm. Eventually, the farm passed from the Covenhoven hands as non-family members bought and farmed the property. Just before it was the Green Flash, the property was owned by the Lenhart family.

Then along came Prohibition, and it became illegal to produce, import, transport, or sell alcohol. It wasn’t illegal to drink it though. From the turn of the 19th century, the momentum was building to curb society’s ills caused by alcohol. Several states had already banned alcohol by the time the Volstead Act, the enabling legislation for the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, was passed in 1920. This was the start of a national thirteen-year enactment of Prohibition. It didn’t take long, though, for people to find ways to violate the law, and stills sprang up all over the country to quench the thirst of a nation going dry.

This is one of the many songs that emerged during Prohibition lamenting the loss of legal booze. Read the lyrics and listen to the song Every Day Will Be Sunday.

The Lenhart Farm caught the eye of someone described in the Somerset Democrat as “a wealthy New Yorker.” He worked through an agent and remained anonymous when he bought the farm and leased it to Tony Sanson. It became the Green Flash Boarding House.

Immediately, the operation of the boarding house came under suspicion from locals. Unsubstantiated reports of it being a speakeasy (an unlicensed saloon) or a brothel abounded. The house sat back off Blawenburg Road down a tree-lined lane with a circular drive near the house. It was a large house, able to accommodate many people. While some local people lived there, on weekends, especially in the summer, many more guests arrived at Skillman Station by train from New York City for some country air, rest, and relaxation. No one knows for sure what else was happening in the old farmhouse. You might think of the Green Flash as a B&B with benefits.

But Sanson had bigger ways to make money, so he subcontracted the barn close to the house to some enterprising men who also came from New York. There apparently were many speakeasys in the city and they needed continuous, out-of-town suppliers to provide their alcohol products. On Saturday, March 29, 1930, the explosion that rocked Blawenburg revealed some illegal activity at the Green Flash.