Have you ever heard kids (or yourself) wonder what people did before there were movies, television, computers, or even radio? Going to the neighborhood saloon for a beer was one of the more common social activities in the nineteenth century. Here is a view of some men having a drink at an unidentified saloon on Water Street in 1889. It's impossible to guess which saloon this is, because in 1889 there were forty-one saloons -- on Water Street alone!!! That's right -- the neighborhood saloon was in every neighborhood back then. Sometimes there were more than one on a block. (For example, in 1889, Adolph Ernst had a saloon at 202 Tiffin Ave., and George Ferback operated one at 210 Tiffin Ave.) The 1889 Sandusky city directory lists 181 saloons in the city.
The saloon was a place where men met to socialize with their friends and enjoy a beer, and maybe even get something to eat, just like they or their fathers or grandfathers did in the "old country" (most likely Germany). This image probably represents a typical scene in a neighborhood saloon of the era: men who may have just finished work for the day, gathered together to talk about their day and the world they lived in. Note the spittoons and hand towels at intervals along the bar, and the hearty, dark beer that was common then. (None of that wimpy pale beer, like we drink today!)
While most saloons were small neighborhood operations, some were a bit more elaborate. Louis Zistel was proprietor of the Atlantic Garden Saloon (sometimes identified as the Atlantic Pleasure Garden) on Meigs Street (near where the city building is today). You can see a bowling alley in the foreground of this picture of Zistel's saloon.
Zistel also operated a boat yard and (briefly) an aquarium, where visitors could view aquatic life through glass in a tank twelve feet deep and one hundred feet in circumfrence.