Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

Chateau La Boheme / Normandie Inn

Near to where Smithtown and Lakeland Avenues in Bohemia intersect, a dilapidated building stands upon a triangular plot of property, half hidden by the weeds and brush now surrounding it. For decades it was a restaurant known as the Chateau La Boheme and later renamed the Normandie Inn. The fading Normandie Inn signs are still visible above one door and the awnings. The building with its white stucco walls, timber trim, slate roof, and turrets, is reminiscent of an old world chateau or fortress and seems out of place at the busy intersection, surrounded by strip malls, businesses, and industrial parks. Some who pass by the old-world styled structure might wonder if there is a history to the place, and yes, indeed, there is. Before the restaurant was built on the property, there was a cigar factory there which burned down sometime in the early 1900s. (1) Afterwards, the lot was sold to Anthony Boris Divis, a Czech immigrant, and art dealer who claimed to be descended from nobility. (2) The Moravian style building he constructed, seems befitting the personality of a man who claimed to have been a former Austrian army officer nicknamed “the Baron”, who wore a monocle and had hand-kissing manners. (3) In the late 1920s, he used the building to sell art and antiques, but during prohibition, he sold alcohol. The Chateau La Boheme, transformed into a speakeasy, disturbed some in the community. A Ronkonkoma “Vigilante committee,” fed up with the “menace of the intolerable speakeasy conditions,” tipped off authorities. (4) Federal agents raided Chateau La Boheme in 1931 and then again the following year. Mr. Divis and several others were taken into custody on both occasions. The Chateau La Boheme was sold in 1952 to August Voss, a German, who along with his wife, ran the restaurant for about 21 years. (5) Although the restaurant continued to change ownership, the building substantially retained its medieval castle-like décor and ambiance. The wooden plank doors, chandeliers, ornate wooden trim, and suits of armor remained through the various ownership changes and its last days as the Normandie Inn.

 

 

  1. Division for Historic Preservation New York State Parks and Recreation. Building Structure Inventory Form. Building Structure Inventory Form
  2. Ibid
  3. Hanscom, Leslie. “Surprise in Bohemia.” Newsday (1940-1986), Sep 3, 1970. Accessed October 30, 2014. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Newsday (1940-1985).
  4. “Federal Agents Raid Oases in Bohemia and in Holbrook.” Suffolk County News, January 2, 1931. Accessed November 1, 2014. Suffolk Historic Newspapers.
  5. “Obituaries.” Newsday (1940-1986), May 24, 1973. Accessed November 1, 2014. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Newsday (1940-1985).

Marie Cantella Interview

Richard Buonocore Interview