old nashville

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.




Carney Street

During the Great Irish Potato Famine, an estimated 10,000 Irish Travelers came to the United States between the period of 1845-1860.  They spread across the country eventually ending up in the mule trade.  Due to the high demand of mule power for agriculture in the Southeast, the Travelers settled pockets of the area.

Irish Travelers are made up from four groups in the U.S. based on where they settled; the Georgia Travelers, Texas Travelers, Ohio Travelers, and Mississippi Travelers.  According to oral tradition, the Georgia band are what makes up parts of Mississippi and Texas groups.  They all originally settled in Nashville and then moved to Atlanta sometime around the Civil War where all the groups splintered off.

1930’s depression era Nashville played host again to the Travelers who would bring a touring carnival through town.  The carnival was less than reputable, but each year would set up in the lot on 2nd Avenue, near the Fairgrounds.  Nothing remains from this time, except for the family they buried locally, and a nod to the past on the aptly named Carney Street (between 4th and 2nd Aves).


 St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Nashville  has always had a connection to these Irish Travelers, and performs weddings and funerals for them still today.  If you look, many of the graves have Georgia Traveler family names like Cooper, Cooley, Harrison, Pierce, Stanley, Young and Jeffery.  





Spring is Here!

This winter was a tough one for everyone in North America.  In the year of the Polar Vortex, many of my plants didn’t make it through the deep freezes, and I spent all weekend replacing them with heirloom squash and zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and flowers.  In a farewell to the coldest winter in my lifetime, I wanted to share a picture I stumbled across of the Winter of 1940 in Nashville.  Yes, it may have gotten cold this winter, but in January of 1940, the Cumberland River froze over so thick that people could walk over it.  So adieu winter, and here’s to short shorts and tall drinks; bring on summer!