Month: July 2014

Come for the Heroin, Stay for the Polar Bears

 

Polar Bears (6)

I posted this image on Instagram the other day and got one of two responses. Some were intrigued and wanted to know more about where and what it was, but the people who already know where it was, they wanted to know what the hell I was doing there.

One PM went like this:

Friend – “Are you getting drugs?”

Me – “No, do you need some?”

Friend – “OMG Why are you in Edgehill Angela? You should stay out of there”

Me – “I just stopped to take a picture.  I swear I went right back to my safe little village of East Nashville just after.”

Bordering the likes of the Belmont Mansion, the Condos at 2600 Culture Wipe Pike,  and Music Row; Edgehill is the last real holdout of gentrification anywhere around it. In 2013, it “won” one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the U.S., but Nashvillians know it better for the six foot tall, 800 pound polar bear statues.

snow dome

So, why are there polar bears in Nashville, TN, the very  home of the snow dome? The answer is custard.

A man by the name of Gio Vacchino of the Mattei Plaster Relief Ornamental Company created the bears for the Polar Bear Frozen Custard shops on Gallatin Road and West End Avenue (in Nashville.  No one knows for sure how many more he created for shops all over the Southeast).  Custard wasn’t quite the craze everyone thought it would be I guess, so after WWII, the shops closed and the bears were bought by Reverend Zima Hill for his front yard at 1408 Edgehill Avenue.  He also placed two in front of the local funeral home.

The two at the funeral home were sold (one lives next door to the famous meat and three Monell’s in Germantown; the other is broken and in a backyard down the street) and the other two ended up as property of the city once the home at 1408 Edgehill was sold (1408 Edgehill is currently a halfway house called Oxford House- Polar Bear).

Students from Tennessee State University were a part of the team to restore the crumbling polar bears, and in 2004, MDHA created the Polar Bear Plaza at the corner of Edgehill Avenue and 12th Avenue South.

In the winter make sure to drive by and see them all dressed up for Christmas with garland, just waiting for the snow that will never come.

 

 

 

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Tate’s Lane Cemetery and Ghost Railroad

Tates Lane and Pet Cemetery (33)

So, technically the cemetery is called the Mt. Juliet Memorial Gardens, but I don’t know anyone who refers to it by anything other than Tate’s Lane Cemetery.  The main entrance is actually one street down from Tate’s Lane on Caldwell, but it is on the Tate farm original property.

To get to the cemetery, you must first cross the railroad tracks, which at the time when I was in high school, were used infrequently by the 137 mile line of the Nashville & Eastern railroad based out of Lebanon, TN. It was originally a part of Jere Baxter’s Tennessee Central line which went out of business in 1968 and was left abandoned (has  served as the commuter rail from Lebanon to Nashville, the Music City Star since 2006).  It was in the 1960’s where the haunted rails stories began.  Before the railroad was reestablished as the Nashville & Eastern line, stories began to circulate that cars would just die when passing over the tracks on the way into the cemetery, not leaving the driver enough time to get out before the fatal clash with the oncoming train.

Tates Lane and Pet Cemetery (73)

As if the threat of instant death wasn’t enough, the cemetery was, and probably still is, associated with Satanic and Masonic rituals (there are an incredible amount of Masons buried there- just look for the compass, anchors, beehives, clasped hands, crown and cross, double headed eagle, triangle with an eye, father time and a weeping virgin, hand holding heart, keystone with letters HTWSSTKS, a five pointed start, a snake and cross, and pretty much any other symbol on a gravestone).

In the 1990’s, many of the graves were defaced and some stolen.  There were so many problems with people vandalizing a large Jesus statue, that the statue is no longer there, only the platform on which he once stood.

Tates Lane and Pet Cemetery (50)

 

 

 

 

Voodoo Village

Would you believe that there’s a place outside of Memphis where shrunken heads sit atop a spiked fence, a haunted school bus comes ‘alive’ to trap all who enter, and where screams of children echo through the woods?

Yeah, me neither.  However, stories come from somewhere and Voodoo Village is in fact very real.

Located in South Memphis, it is still surrounded by wilderness.  A man named Washington (Wash) Harris shut off his home and community with a fence and a huge iron gate in the 1950’s, allegedly to practice “dark arts.”

People became curious about the property because of the yard art and symbols everywhere.  Story goes that the compound actually did block nosy people from exiting with a school bus and many people have been chased away by machetes or worse.

There is a folk-art temple, named St. Paul’s Spiritual Temple, that is visible from the road covered with voodoo dolls, candles, moons, crosses and Masonic symbols.  Neighbors would talk about ceremonies with large bonfires, speaking in tongues and gulp; the walking dead.  Harris denies practicing voodoo, yet never discloses what is really going on behind the gate.

There are lots of accounts from visitors to the compound on the Facebook page here.  It is made pretty clear that these people just want to be left alone, by any means necessary…

Andrew Jackson’s Giant Wheel of Cheese

cheese

 

I’m deviating outside of the location of Tennessee; however, since the story regards my favorite Tennessean, I feel justified in telling  it.

Completely insane patriot and dairy farmer Colonel Thomas S. Meacham and Jackson’s followers wanted to show their thanks to the new democracy by giving Jackson what he loved best: cheese. This idea was not original, but was an ode to Jackson honoring the giant cheese (15 inches thick, four feet wide, 1234 pounds) given to Thomas Jefferson by the town of Cheshire, Connecticut in 1802. The Cheshire cheese was a symbol of “profound respect…to the popular ratification of his election” for Jefferson.

Jackson’s followers knew this story and in 1835 commissioned Meacham to create a monster wheel of cheese that was two feet thick, four feet around and weighed 1400 pounds.

The only problem was, even now in the days of refrigerators and air conditioning a four foot wheel of cheese is completely ridiculous and unmanageable.  In 1837 (two years after he had received the “gift”) Jackson, known as the “people’s president” decided to invite his constituents (over 10,000 attended) to the White House lawn to cut the cheese, if you will.

The enormous symbol of Jacksonian Democracy was devoured within two hours.  The reception was his last public appearance as President before Jackson returned to the Hermitage, but the smell of the rotting cheese was talked about by Washingtonians for years after his death.

The Brass Stables – Nashville’s Only Exotic Dance Club

Nashville’s got plenty of strip clubs, just ask Pac Man Jones (never forget!) –

But it only has one “exotic” dance club which has been grandfathered in to have different regulations than the other strip clubs in town (i.e. their dancers do not have to follow the “three feet” rule because the building is so narrow, they literally cannot be three feet away from their clients).  It is not only the oldest “exotic” club in town, but it is also the one with the richest history.  The Brass Stables began as a fancy pants restaurant called the Brass Rail Stables and Lounge.  The restaurant was located on the second floor of the building, and the stables were below.  Today you can still see the original wood from the stables on the wall in the Brass Stables.

Andrew Jackson, then Governor of Tennessee and founder of the modern Democratic Party himself, kept his horse boarded there.  At the time, the restaurant and ‘lounge’ was really more of a brothel, which was where Andrew Jackson’s three week journey (read: wild party and celebration) to Washington began after he found out that he had won the Presidential Election.  Now, in case you missed that, Jackson’s presidency in theory started at what is now the Brass Stables in Nashville, TN.  Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829 and his reception was so drunk and rowdy that Jackson climbed out of the window of the White House and went to a hotel.  The crowd refused to leave until bowls of liquor and spiked punch were put out around the White House lawn and eventually everyone got extra drunk. It took three months to restore the White House to the condition it was in before the Jackson inauguration party, all of which *technically* began at the Brass Stables.

Tate’s Lane – Haunted Mt. Juliet

Mt.  Juliet, Tennessee is a bedroom community in the suburbs of Nashville.  It was originally farm land, but grew quickly after the 1929 Great Depression where the people established schools, churches (in abundance), and locally owned businesses. The “feel” of the old Mt. Juliet is all but gone, except in a couple of places; the pig farm on Hwy 70 that stands in the middle of endless shopping centers and urban sprawl, and Tate’s Lane.

Tate’s Lane is a one lane, incredibly narrow forest road lined with tall trees, so that if you meet an oncoming car one of you has to back up until the other can pass. There are all sorts of tales about mysterious things happening on the property, like if two cars crash head on they can enter another universe, and the ghost victim of a duel with Andrew Jackson who wanders around but none more widely known that what we call “the curse.”

The lane begins at the Masonic Temple, and ends at a Baptist Church. These facts alone give me the serious creeps, but the history of the property adds some insight as to who – or what – might be hanging out around there.

W.N. Tate was a civil war hero who fought in 37 battles.  He returned home to Mt. Juliet, married Allie Cawthon and the two built a home on a large farm on Tate’s Lane.  The story I was told, shivering in the dark in the Tate family cemetery on a Halloween long ago, was that W.N. was a brutal slave master, and that there was an area of the property on the South end of Tate’s Lane where he hung the slaves who disobeyed him.  The slaves were still practicing witchcraft and one of the slaves placed a curse on the land that it would claim the lives of 100 white men each year for eternity.

Rumor is that the Masonic Temple has satanic cult rituals and the KKK meet up in the woods, but one thing is for certain; Tate’s Lane is responsible for over 100 accidents per year still to this day.