Construction workers discovered a hidden cellar behind a Prohibition-era wall in Liberty Hall Museum, Union, New Jersey, USA, filled with over 50 bottles and 42 demijohns of wine, some of which date back to 1769.
The museum officials had no idea these old bottles were there. The discovery was made as historians and museum workers have been renovating Liberty Hall Museum, originally just called Liberty Hall, which was home to New Jersey’s first elected governor and signer of the Constitution, William Livingston. The building was built in 1772, just prior to the American Revolution, and originally had 14 rooms. The estate changed ownership in 1811 to the Kean family and eventually became a 50-room mansion that stands today.
The wine cellar was one of the rooms to undergo examination and repair. The hidden area was located behind a plywood and plaster wall built during the Prohibition. Within it the researchers found a collection of Madeira wine dating back as early as 1769. More wine was discovered in the attic, where demijohns – or large glass vats – of wine were found buried beneath piles of straw.
According to the researchers the bottles of Madeira were stored for the personal use of Robert Lenox, who died in 1939, a millionaire and major wine importer from New York City, were among the bottles discovered in the renovation. It is estimated that some of Lenox’s sealed, stamped bottles could be worth up to 20000 US Dollars. Experts believe that the content of the cellar is one of the longest-lived wines in the world. During the renovation, the wine cellar’s wooden shelves were repaired and reinforced with brick. The display is now open to the public, and Kean said one of the original two-century old bottles may be opened when the President of Portugal visits the museum at a later date.