Day drinking on the back porch at one of Nashville’s oldest (and diviest) bars, the Springwater, isn’t for the timid. You will almost certainly be sexually harassed by beloved eccentric Dave Cloud (even if you’re male), catch a contact buzz, and possibly contract “insert popular STD here” from the toilet. Half jokes aside, the one fact about the Springwater is that everyone – everyone – loves to talk.
Last Sunday was a particularly beautiful day and the old folks were out. I met a man who described himself as a local historian and we started talking about the many legends of the Springwater. I think everyone in town has heard that Al Capone would hide out there when things got too hot up north, but there’s never much more to the story.
I asked Mr. Local Historian to tell me more about the history of the property where the Springwater stands and I could make a damn Buzzfeed that could read ’10 Things You Won’t Believe About Your Hometown’ and most of them would be about 115 27th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37203.
To start, the front entrance was the original building. The music room was added later, and of course the porch much later. In 1779 it stood as a house, which was surrounded by natural, freshwater springs (hence the tip of the hat with the current name). It was the last freshwater stop before getting to the Cumberland River, so it became an trading post around 1780-1801. In the original structure, where the benches on the side of the pool table are, stood a fireplace. You can still see where it has been bricked up.
In the year 1887, the establishment began serving liquor (which the don’t actually sell now – beer only). The place served as a trading post, library, and brothel, before a group of Nashville judges got their hands on it during prohibition where it became a speakeasy. If you’ve ever walked in the front doors of the Springwater, you will notice the big swinging doors you walk past. They were installed around the time of the prohibition to keep the cops out, until one day the cops decided they would bust up the place for illegal alcohol sales. The got a battering ram and tried to run through those doors when who do they see sitting at the bar but Nashville’s finest judges. Needless to say, they tipped their hats and were on their way. Even today, the cops still keep a mindful distance…
Everyone’s pretty sure Al Capone partied there, and that Hoffa gambled there in the 60’s is well known. And everyone from Hank Williams, Sr. to the Black Keys have paid their respects to the golden god at beer church there.
The Springwater itself was incorporated as a business in 1978, but the property has played a huge role in the lives of Tennesseeans for well over 200 years. May it live on for 200 more.
To read more about the area around The Springwater, visit my other blog here.