Century-old oats discovered in ceiling during Alabama restaurant renovation
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It was a curious find for workers renovating the former Sam and Greg's Pizzeria: some century-old grain hidden away in the building's ceiling.
"We knew this was going to be unusual," ACW Electric foreman Werner Greene said.
Lee Builders and ACW Electric were tasked with renovating the more than 100-year-old store on North Side Square.
"When we tore up the floor, we found about an inch worth of oats," Greene said.
Hidden in the joists in the first-floor ceiling, workers were showered in the grain.
"About 15 to 20 pounds of it," Greene said.
Not knowing exactly where it came from, historian Vaughn Bocchino shared the pictures online, inviting a few theories.
"We thought maybe it was to hide moonshine during Prohibition," Greene said.
"We first thought maybe it was moonshine, maybe it was for hiding gold bars. But it's probably the most mundane possible explanation," Bocchino said.
It appears Bocchino would be right. Building owner Margaret Anne Goldsmith has family records of the building going back over 120 years.
"It was used as a dry goods store by him. So, that's why I'm thinking he put the oats there," Goldsmith said.
There are no pictures of the building from that era, so theories are most of what Vaughn, Margaret and Werner have.
"They may have let it go down through the window as some kind of chute, so people could fill bags for the horses," Goldsmith said.
They can't say for certain, but at a time when horses were the most common mode of transportation, it's fair to say oats would have been good business.
Nobody is bold enough to taste the find, though.
"You can try it, they smell like old books," Bocchino said.
"It's a mystery. And it's a mystery for other people to wonder about," Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith said she's hoping an agriculture school like Alabama A&M can successfully grow some of the oats. She said the downtown space will open as a restaurant this fall.