4. Honky Tonks Used to Cover Franklin Road
Sure, Cool Springs and downtown Franklin are the places to go for Friday night drinks in Williamson County. Nowadays, anyway.
But for a good many decades of the early 20th century a string of roadhouses, juke joints and speakeasies filled the nights along Franklin Road with music, laughter and, of course, hooch.
From the late ’20s to the early ’60s and a bit beyond, if you had a thirst for dancing, drinking, dining or even a little gambling, the 16 odd establishments of varying repute along the stretch between Franklin and Brentwood would gladly quench it for you.
Prohibition ended when the Volstead Act was repealed in 1933, but states and counties could opt in or choose to remain dry. Williamson County went wet, but Davidson County- with the exception of the Nashville city limits- stayed dry as a bone.
It was in this atmosphere that these roadhouses sprouted up.
“Jackson Highway, which opened in 1929 and is now Franklin Road, and this series of beer joints- roadhouses- opened up along the way,” said Rick Warwick, historian for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. “They were pretty notorious- there were roadhouse gamblers, and it was illegal to serve alcohol at the time here, but if you paid off the sheriff you could get away with it.”
Only echoes and shadows are left of most, a scattering of stones that flash past the car window on your way to work or play.
But one is still standing. It sits about halfway between the two towns, a little turnabout cut into the woods that frame it.
Today the building is home to the Franklin Road Animal Hospital at 1434 Franklin Road. But in 1929, until sometime in the ’60s, it was the called The Rendezvous.
The once toll house became a popular road house. In the 1920’s it was known as The Silver Moon and in 1934 it changed hands and the name was changed to The Rendezvous which it kept til the 1960’s. It was then bought by a group of businessmen one of which was Eddy Arnold. In the early 1970’s it was the office for the Brentwood Water Company, Charlie Mosely’s real estate and accounting office, and a businessman named Jack Corn. There are still some old asbestos pipes on the property that belonged to the Brentwood Water Company. As mentioned before, northern Williamson County was very dry and would not support development until water was made available.
Originally, in the late 1800s, the building was erected as a toll house. In the 1920s it became The Silver Moon and later The Rendezvous.
“The building was known to have the best dance floor on the strip which was verified by a long-time client,” Dr. Mark Ingram, the veterinarian at the Animal Hospital, wrote on their site:
“One of my early clients when I first opened the clinic had been the attorney for the owner of the nightclub. He told me that the sheriff was out here most every weekend. Several have told me that there was gambling downstairs. We recently had a visitor stop in and tell about a man from the Chicago area that brought in roulette wheels on a regular basis. He described a shoot out one weekend in which four patrons were killed. The attorney told me that he came in one day and the parking lot was full of cars but there were only two people sitting in a corner drinking beer. He told the bartender to go downstairs and get the owner and have him send a number of people back upstairs. He asked how could he defend him in court if it was so obvious that the main activity was gambling downstairs. For years after opening the clinic around 5:00 p.m. we would have working gentlemen burst through the door, look startled, say nothing, then turn around with a disappointed look on their face and leave.”
The owner-operator, John Clements, built it in and lived in the basement with his wife. They were even eventually able to get a permit to legally serve beer.
To help skirt the law, a lot of these types of places would just sell set-ups, as they are called. In other words, they’ll give you a glass of Coca-Cola, but bring your own Jack.
The Crossroads, also known at one time as the Cool Goose, was at the corner of Wilson Pike Circle and Old Hickory Boulevard.
The Wagon Wheel- later became the Brentwood Cafe, where First American Bank used to be.
The Palms- was one of the nicer dance places and had live bands. It was originally a Texaco station whose building was expanded to house a restaurant and a dance floor. It was where the Exxon station is now in center Brentwood.
The Stork Club- was one of the classier places, it charged a cover and had bands in the summer, with dining and dancing on a patio under an awning. Bartenders wore coats and ties.
The Gingerbread House- opened as a dinner club and later became a hot spot known as the Ship Ahoy during and after World War II.
The Rendezvous- was known for its hardwood dance floors and family-like atmosphere during its early years.
The Owl Club- was across the street from the Rendezvous, it burned down after the war. Gambling and dancing were equally popular here.
The White Way Inn- was located near the present site of Sew What Gifts and Stitches, This was a tough joint, as the contemporary saying went “The White Way Inn, the bloody way out.”
The Lucky Strike- was located near where Holly Tree Gap Road hits Franklin Road
Patton’s Place- was near the old Moore’s Lane and what is now Publix.
The Del Rio- is still standing as the first house on the right turning onto Moore’s Lane from Franklin Road.
“We took the wing that was the dance hall and made it our home,” Sue Owen told the Harpeth Herald in 1978. “My kitchen is where the bandstand was located.” According the Harpeth Herald, the Owns tore down the other wing of the club, which held the bar, dining area and restrooms, for lumber to build a barn on the property.
Green Acres- was at the corner of Concord Road and Franklin Road; before the Green Acres it was the site of a toll booth.
The Nightengale- was located opposite the former site of Yearkin’s Antiques near Moore’s Lane. It was a popular hangout for teens from the late ’30s and early ’40s. (There was no age restriction in effect. Though, according to the Herald story, if youths who got a little too rowdy their parents would be told, and in certain cases the sheriff might stop by for a little heart-to-heart.)
The Greyhound- is now the present site of the white colonial mansion on the west side of the road about three miles north of Franklin.
The New Deal Cafe- was across the street from the now-closed Jamison plant.
The River View- was later renamed the Blue Moon, and was located on the south bank of the Harpeth along Franklin Road.
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