Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Back Pages: This Week in Print Over the Years

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Our Back Pages brings you tidbits of this week in Nashville history from near and far, chronologically speaking.

This edition: Lower Broad's emergence as a peep-show paradise in the late 1970s, the three-decade saga of that bare patch of ground by the Music Row Roundabout, a millennial view of the restaurant scene, state Dems' botched swipe at a Swift-boater, and a Triple Crown champ's ancestral ties to Belle Meade Plantation.

click to enlarge No, this is not a shot of the Ryman Auditorium from the era when its neighbors were porn vendors, but it's worth including just for the fun fact that the Orthodox Jewish Congregation Sherith Israel, now located at West End and Bowling, was based in the house seen here nextdoor to the Ryman from 1905 to 1920.
  • No, this is not a shot of the Ryman Auditorium from the era when its neighbors were porn vendors, but it's worth including just for the fun fact that the Orthodox Jewish Congregation Sherith Israel, now located at West End and Bowling, was based in the house seen here nextdoor to the Ryman from 1905 to 1920.
1977: The smut quarter and the imaginary hotel

With the new Opryland Hotel and Convention Center scheduled to open this week 32 years ago, an Associated Press dispatch focused on the rise of new tourism features in Donelson and near Music Row--as well as the decline of the old tourism center of Lower Broadway:
Porn Palaces Plague Music City

The former heart of Nashville's tourist business is now overrun with adult movie houses, bookstores and massage parlors.
Lower Broad's clientele had gone from rhinestone-studded to rough since the Opry moved out to Opryland three years earlier from the venerable Ryman Auditorium:
The Ryman remains open for tours, but a reporter recently counted 10 adult movie houses, bookstores or massage parlors within three blocks.

In fact, the Adult Mini Cinema is right across the street from the Ryman. A sign in the window says: "Hi, for open-minded adults we have fiery films, magazines, paperbacks [and] novelties, but you must be 18 to enter."

Roy Acuff, "the king of country music," owns one of the buildings housing an adult bookstore. He says there's nothing he can do because the person he leased to subleased.
Elsewhere around town, fine new tourism amenities were in the works to compete for the attention Lower Broad used to enjoy, the AP reported. Not only was the new Opryland facility expected to bring another 100,000 conventioneers to town annually, but plans were afoot to construct "a plush, high-rise hotel" near the Country Music Hall of Fame at the end of Music Row.

By 1999, Lower Broad had found its tourism mojo once more, and it was the Row's turn to fall into decline, as another AP story reported:
The downtown boom has come at the expense of earlier tourist hot spots such as "Music Row," where the soon-to-be-closed Country Music Hall of Fame sits cramped and outdated beside a ghost town of former souvenir shops, tour bus offices and eateries.
Ah, but singer and entrepreneur Reba McEntire had just the idea to bring the area back to life: A luxury hotel, which her company would partner with Ritz-Carlton to open in 2001 at the site of the now-shuttered Barbara Mandrell Museum where Division and Demonbreun Streets converge.

Reba's team was still trying to make that deal happen early in 2001, and then it wasn't. Five years later, Houston's Lionstone Group bought the property and again made optimistic noises about a luxury hotel development. By early 2008, Lionstone announced plans to break ground in the spring on a large office building at the old Mandrell site, with a smaller hotel maybe to come later.

A battle royal over whether the city could force an adjoining owner to sell her property for that development ended in October 2008 with an agreement allowing the project to go forward. "It's full speed ahead," a real estate broker involved in the deal said at that time.

The site remains empty today.

2000: You gonna eat that?

Nine years ago, the intrepid Kay West did for culinary Nashville what you wish politicians would do for all of us every now and then: Tell the masses that some of what they clamor for is crap:
While people are willing to stand in line for two hours at P.F. Chang's for Crispy Honey Shrimp and Peanut-Lime Chicken Salad, on any given weeknight there are tables for the asking at establishments like Sasso in East Nashville and Mirror in 12 South.
While bringing back Proustian remembrances of dearly departed dining establishments like Sasso and , Kay's piece also serves as a primer to what stood in the way of success for any ambitious restaurateur in this town, circa 2000. Few of the barriers to entry she cites appear to have fallen in the past decade.

2004: Swift-boat backfire

Just by way of illustrating that the folks currently in charge of our state's Democratic Party are not the first to venture into new realms of maladroit awkwardness when they try to go on the attack, we present the Beaman Boo-Boo of 2004:
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Randy Button has apologized for a press release he says was posted on the group's Web site by mistake that called for a boycott of businesses owned by prominent GOP contributor and Nashville businessman Lee Beaman.

The release stated that Beaman had given a quarter of a million dollars to the political group "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." It called on Democrats to boycott Beaman Automotive and not to purchase Pepsi products bottled at Beaman Bottling. In fact, Beaman had given $2,500 to that group.
1902: End of an equestrian era

The famed bloodstock of Belle Meade Plantation went under the hammer starting this week 107 years ago. Within two years, the financially distressed owners of the farm had sold off all of their thoroughbred horses.

In the century to come, descendants of the legendary Belle Meade sire Bonnie Scotland would be among the best-known names in modern horse racing. They included Epsom Derby champion Never Say Die, Kentucky Derby winners Northern Dancer and Sunday Silence, and 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

History happenings:

New look at Herbert Hoover

Monday night at 8, WNPT-Channel 8 airs Herbert Hoover: Landslide, a new documentary on the president whose legacy has been defined by the Great Depression. For those who can't get enough of the hard-times nostalgia, Channel 8 will air 1990's American Experience: The Crash of 1929 in the preceding hour.

Franklin battle sites in joint venture

The stewards of Franklin historic sites the Carter House and Carnton Plantation have "entered into a joint venture to manage the operation of Franklin's two key Civil War sites in an effort to better coordinate heritage tourism," according to an announcement made last week. They have established the nonprofit Battle of Franklin Trust:
The Carter House is located on Columbia Avenue and was the epicenter of the November 30, 1864 Battle of Franklin, described by historians as the five bloodiest hours of the Civil War because of the number of soldiers injured, killed or missing, approximately 10,000 soldiers from both Union and Confederate forces.

Carnton's role in the battle came when the home served as the largest field hospital in the area of hundreds of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers. The historic house sits off Lewisburg Pike at the edge of the city's Eastern Flank Battlefield Park, approximately one mile from The Carter House.

This strategic alliance is seen as a way to greatly enhance the visitor experience by offering such things as comprehensive battlefield tours, combination tickets and seamless integration with other battlefield sites. The interpretive approaches to the sites will be preserved by the two boards that continue in their role as fiduciaries of their respective associations.
Carnton this month opened its $1.2 million Fleming Center. Housing a gift shop, offices and exhibit space, the center is named for Sam Fleming, a Franklin native and renowned Nashville banker who was a major supporter of the museum.

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