Museum workers in New Jersey broke through a Prohibition-era wall and a locked wooden cage to discover over 50 bottles and 42 demijohns of rare Madeira wine dating back as early as 1769. This wine discovery yields the oldest known collection of Madeira in the United States.
The six-month renovation also led to discoveries of more wine in the attic, where demijohns of wine were found buried beneath piles of straw. Demijohns, or large glass vats, commonly held spirits in transit and for storage.
Bottles of Madeira created for the personal use of Robert Lenox, a millionaire and major wine importer from New York City, were among the bottles discovered in the renovation. Lenox died in 1839, according to the New York Historical Society.
During the renovation, the wine cellar’s wooden shelves were repaired and reinforced with brick. The display is now open to the public, and employees say that one of the original two-century old bottles may be opened when the President of Portugal visits the museum at a later date.