Donelson Diary

Interesting Intimate Items of Donelson's Daily Developments

Volume 1 - Number 51

Donelson, Davidson County, Tennessee

8 May 1947

Lower Lights

By Mary Alice Adams

NASHVILLE 50 YEARS AGO [Note:  120 years ago]

To the visitor during the decades of the 1880's and 1890's, the most impressive features in Nashville were the old suspension bridge across the Cumberland, which was then considered the most majestic and impressive structure of its kind in the South, the Capitol building, the Polk Mansion and the Old Maxwell House. Fifty years ago there were no apartment houses, no sky-scrapers, not even electric street railways.

The city was lighted by gas and coal-oil lamps. An old man used to go around after the moon rose, in "the light of the moon," and extinguish all the street lights, as a matter of economy.

All Visit Maxwell House

Truly, the Maxwell House was the heart of Nashville. If you had eaten a juicy beef-steak in the architecturally-perfect old Maxwell House dining room with well-trained ebony-headed Negro waiters flying around, it would be something to remember. Every president of the United States or other notables who visited Nashville at that time was a guest at the old hotel.

At the middle of the crossing of Church Street and Fourth Avenue, the corner of the hotel, was located a turntable where the little mule cars turned in different directions.

At this point was an array of hacks and horses, presided over by colored men in blue uniforms and brass buttons. Inside the hotel a mellow light was always burning.

A bar-room occupied a prominent place. The rotunda was a free forum where many a distinguished orator had stood.

Indignant Nashville

The best description of the Maxwell House of the period was by O. Henry though at the time it was published it created much indignation in Nashville.

[Note:  The old Maxwell House hotel was destroyed by fire on Christmas night 1961]

Other buildings of the long ago were the Union Railway Station under the hill, below the east end of the present Church Street via-duct. There was Polk Place with President James K. Polk's mausoleum in the yard, a mecca for visitors. The residence was occupied by the venerable widow of the President. Her niece, Mrs. G. W. Fall and husband and beautiful little daughter resided with her. The most fashionable residential portion of Nashville was then on what is now Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Fashion was beginning to move out Broadway. Few streets had names on the corners. Strangers were often confused and had to ask many questions.

A number of fine residences occupied Church Street from Sixth going west. The DeMoville residence, with statues of wild animals prominent in the front yard, was one of these. Dr. M. M. Cullom, then a little country boy, said he used to be frightened into tears when his parents took him down Church Street past the DeMoville home.

Colonel E. W. Cole, then reputed to be the wealthiest man in Nashville, had his palatial home on Church Street where the Doctor's Building now stands.

Too Much Pressure

The new City Hospital and water works had not been built 50 years ago. The old Hospital was located on Second and Third Avenue near the Hay Market. You could smell Iodoform when you got within a block of it. Dr. William Morrow's fine residence was just beyond the Hospital on the east side of Second Avenue. Dr. Morrow was a big businessman and one of Nashville's "live wires."

The City Waterworks and Reservoir were located on the river where the General Hospital and Nurse's Home now stand. A year or two later the Waterworks moved up the river and the Reservoir was located where it now stands on a commanding hill on Eighth Avenue. The pressure of the water was so much greater than that from the old reservoir that water mains broke and geysers spouted all over town. One of the worst of these was on Seventh Avenue opposite the Vine Street Christian Church. The water spouted 75 feet in the air and hurled stones and other debris on top of the Church and on adjoining buildings. A large catfish was also thrown out. Evidently it had been taken into the intake when just a baby.

The first office buildings were the Jackson Building at the corner of Church and Fifth Avenue and the Cole Building where the American National Bank is now located on Fourth Avenue. There were some apartments in the Jackson Building but the Cole Building, except for the first floor, was exclusively devoted to offices. It was known as "Cole's Folly" and predictions were made that it would never be filled. Colonel Cole proved to have foresight, however, for the building was soon filled. Sam Jones, on his visits to Nashville, used to hold meetings in the Nashville Centennial Building on Eighth Avenue. The Methodist Publishing House was on the northeast corner of the Public Square. The tallest building in Nashville, not counting the dome of the Capitol and a few church spires, was the Berry-DeMoville building at the southeast corner of the square.

Educational Center

Nashville was even then taking rank as a great educational center. Young Vanderbilt and Young Fisk had made their advent. There was the University of Nashville in south Nashville with its medical department on Broadway. Roger Williams college, for Colored pupils, was on the site of the present Peabody College, the successor to the University of Nashville.

Society and Local News Items

Have New Daughter

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Phillips on Bluefield Avenue, who have a new daughter, born Monday morning at Vanderbilt Hospital.

Smith-Arnott Wedding Rites Solemnized Last Sunday

Miss Alice Louise Smith, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Walker Smith, became the bride of Robert Lochhead Arnott, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Arnott of Brooklyn, New York, in a ceremony at 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon, April 27, at the Andrew Price Memorial Methodist Church....

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An Editorial

Maintaining the policy that the DIARY, as a community newspaper, shall do everything in its power to promote the general welfare of the community which it serves, and whereas, the destruction of telephone cables by a party or parties unknown this week has jeopardized the safety and welfare of the community, the DIARY herewith adds the sum of $25 to the rewards already offered by the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, for the arrest and conviction of the party or parties unknown who committed this destruction.

The DIARY further calls upon the two civic organizations representing the population of Donelson --

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DDT Paint

Lower Lights

By Mary Alice Adams


With masses soft of snowy hair
With dear face lined by heavy care,
My Mother.
A weary child, my head found rest
Safe cradled there upon her breast,
my Mother.

Now older grown, my aching heart
Finds refuge there from pain and hurt, my Mother.
And Heaven itself, all pearl and gold,
Will lovlier be, because 'twill hold my Mother.

--Minnie E. Kennedy.

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Clem's Clippings

Unusual Items, None Expected To Be Read

Sometimes we're just plain flabber-gasted over our mistakes. If we ever put out a paper which doesn't have something wrong, Uncle Joe Stalin and General Marshall will likely kiss and make up. Here we're just an issue away from that first birthday and have carried one mistake all that time which it took a friend in New York to notice. We've never noticed it and no one has called it to our attention. The mistake was in the spelling of "developments" on the first page. We had an extra "E."

Some unusual things have been happening at Mrs. Blanche Torrence's. First, Louise Hulett had an accident. We don't know where Howard was but Louise was mowing the lawn in her sock feet and nearly managed to sever her big toe. And then Mrs. Torrence had trouble backing around in her car and tore up a mailbox. Finally, Howard's baby chicks apparently didn't know enough to get in out of the rain and they all almost drowned in one of our recent rains. Never a dull moment!

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