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Doughnuts and Coffee since 1937...and Buried Treasure since the Civil War

August 25, 2018

My blog post for this month is a 2-fer, starting with the history of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and how they relate to Nashville, and ending with the Civil War and the possibility of hidden gold in Metro Center. 

Trigger Warning: the following blog post might make you hungry. 

For this month, I had a pretty sizeable list of topics to write about, but it was the "Hot Now" sign at Krispy Kreme that actually finally gave me a light bulb idea. That, and the fact that I recently received a reference question regarding the site of the very first Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop, that apparently was here in Nashville. This was news to me (it may not be for anyone else reading), but that's when my research started, to see if it was in fact true. Guess what, it is! 

There's a caveat to the story though, Nashville wasn't THE original location where the Krispy Kreme doughnut was invented, just where the first store dedicated to that hot and ready, glazed circle of yumminess was opened by original owner, Vernon Carver Rudolph and his uncle and partner, Ishmael Armstrong. 

A few other cities also own bragging rights on that yummy little doughnut...

  • Paducah, Kentucky - where the Krispy Kreme doughnut was first made by Rudolph and Armstrong. 
  • Charleston, West Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia - also where shops were opened by other family members shortly after Nashville's bakery opened.
  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina - where Rudolph headed to after Nashville, to independently open his own shop. It's also the location of their headquarters today. 

The "Hole" Story of how Krispy Kreme came to Nashville...

1933 is the golden year for the invention of Krispy Kreme doughnuts according to Krispy Kreme's presskit timeline. The owner as already mentioned, Vernon Carver Rudolph, bought a doughnut shop in Paducah from a New Orleans chef by the name of Joseph LeBeouf (I think, this may or may not be true). But I've read a couple of different origin stories, and another source said that Rudolph's uncle, Ishmael Armstrong, was the actual owner of the shop in Paducah. Also, another source said that the shop was owned by Armstrong, and that he had just purchased the recipe from LeBeouf. 

Either way, that's where the recipe began to be sold, but for a wider market that would hopefully sell better, this is when Rudolph and Armstrong went south to Nashville. The timeline says that move took place sometime in the mid 1930's, which I'm guessing was around 1936-37; unfortunately we don't have a 1936 Nashville City Directory book to confirm. However, in 1937, the location of the doughnut shop was listed at 5024 Charlotte Ave. I don't know who Paul H. Rudolph is, but must be some relative of the original owner. The timeline also mentioned that at this time, the business mostly focused on selling doughnuts to local grocery stores.


Sadly, we don't have a photo of the original location because photos of Nashville during the 1930's aren't common among our collections. But to give you an idea of where it was located, it was near 51st Ave N, which today is near the Southern Thrift shop and an autodealer car lot. See the photo above from approximately the 1970-80's of Charlotte Ave near 51st Ave N. 

Also in 1937, original owner Vernon Rudolph decided he wanted to open his very own shop instead of co-owning. So he and a few other friends headed east to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Carrying only $25, the secret recipe for the doughnuts, a couple of pieces of doughnut-making equipment, and the brand name Krispy Kreme - they rented a building near Salem Academy and College, in what is now known as Old Salem. With only $25 to rent a building, Randolph unfortunately did not have any money for ingredients. So he made a deal with a local grocer to lend him the ingredients, in return for payment when his business took off. 

And when sales started in July, 1937 - again - their focus was primarily to sell to grocery stores. But they also sold to people passing by the bakery during their production hours, early in the morning. The demand to sell to individuals became so great after the business started, that Randolph was forced to cut a hole in the wall to allow for a sales window. The rest is pretty much history in terms of its success, as everyone knows today how successful Krispy Kreme is, selling in doughnut shops, grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.

The first store to have opened outside of the south was apparently in Akron, Ohio, in 1939. It was during the 1950's when the doughnut-making process began to change for the better; hand-cutting the doughnuts was replaced with the Krispy Kreme automatic doughnut cutter, making the process a lot quicker and easier. 

The original owner, Vernon Rudolph, passed away on August 16th, 1973. 

Nashville Bakeries

Getting back to the Nashville bakeries 1938, the bakery was in the same location. But in 1939, the new location is listed at 404 1/2 21st Ave S. Which today, would have been between the Panera and Starbucks on 21st Ave, across from Vandy's campus. 

The only photo I was able to find of the franchise was the East Nashville location, on Gallatin Road and Greenwood Ave, which appeared to have opened around 1959-1960. 

Over the years, other locations were opened, including:

  • In 1955: 2724 West End Ave and 4th Ave S.
  • 1959-60: the already-mentioned Gallatin Rd. location.
  • 1967: 3404 West End Ave, 327 W. Lafayette St, and Gallatin Rd. 
  • 1971: The 408 Thompson Lane location was added; the same one that's there today.
  • 1979: A Manufacturers, Wholesale, and Retail opened on Armory Drive. 

  • The early 1980's get a little strange with a few of the books not showing any stores at all, but that doesn't seem likely.
  • 1985: There are locations at Thompson Lane and W. Lafayette St. 
  • And jumping ahead a few years - 1995/96: Locations at Thompson Lane and 2103 Church St. which I'm assuming is the Elliston Place store, because their current address is 2103 Elliston Place. 

Other Long-Standing Bakery Businesses in Nashville 

The bakery that was selling doughy goodies such as bread, rolls, and even doughnuts long before Krispy Kreme came to town was the American Bread Company. Founded in 1899 by C.K. Evers, the company first began its operation on Church Street, right where the Library is located today (619-621 Church Street). The location of the company in the photo above is when they made their final move of the company to Murfreesboro Road in 1951. 

Their first advertisement was "we ship bread to merchants in nearly every town within three hundred miles of Nashville." 

After their first home on Church Street, the company moved to 4th Ave N (see below). I think that area today might be either James Robertson Pkwy, or where Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers are located. I think, but I could definitely be wrong. 

The Murfreesboro home for the company is where the company built a "$1 million dollar state-of-the-art bakery, capable of producing two hundred thousand units daily," according to Ridley Will's, Lest we forget book. The amount of bread in several forms they produced at the Murfreesboro plant by 1981 was "...7,000 lbs of bread, 2,500 lbs of buns and rolls, and 800 lbs of donuts an hour..." Some of their product that was sold in Nashville grocery stores included their Sunbeam and Roman Meal breads. 

The company was eventually sold off in 1993 to the Mobile, Alabama company, CooperSmith, for the reason that the 42-year-old plant wasn't efficient anymore. But CooperSmith didn't keep the company for long, and sold it again to Lewis Brothers Bakers in Evansville, Indiana, in 1994. But Lewis Brothers didn't maintain the business for long either, to the chagrin of many, and instead the company shut down the bakery and consolidated the bread-baking at the Murfreesboro bakery. All that was left of the brand was the Sunbeam and Roman Meal breads. 

There may be Union Gold buried somewhere in Nashville...

Another interesting story I stumbled upon recently that's similar to doughnuts in that they're both golden and desirable, is a story about buried treasure. It came to me in the form of an older Tennessean article, written in March, 1978. Whether what the article says is true is very much still up for debate, as I was not able to secure any other evidence for or against the possibility. But I'll present you with the facts as the story states, and I'll let you choose for yourself...

A family by the name of Bush used to own and farm the land near the Cumberland River and 1-265 (the Lyle Fulton Bridge), a.k.a. the bridge crossing the Cumberland just north of town that's just past the Rosa Parks Blvd exit. This is where the legend of the buried Union gold begins, because the person interviewed in the Tennessean article is a man by the name of Joe Bush.

In the 1877 map below, the area where the Bush farm was located was close to where you see the "Nashville Blood Horse Association" race track. This race track had been there since 1808, according to Bush, and Andrew Jackson himself even raced there.

Joe learned about the possibility of hidden "yankee" gold from his grandfather, who was a former Confederate soldier. He said at first when he was younger, he didn't think much about it. But when he was older, in the 1930's, his opinion changed when the possibility of gold became more plausible. An old man showed up one day - an old soldier from the Civil War - asking him questions about a tree with markings made on it by an army. The old man asked...

"Son, do you know where there is a tree with a blaze mark on it?' You know? An army takes an ax and makes a blaze mark on a tree to tell which way they went."

Bush agreed that he did in fact know where such a tree was located. The tree, he said, had a triangular mark on it. After Bush took the old man to the described tree, the man pulled out an old parchment-looking map. The man then asked where the other 2 trees were located, ones designated on his map. Apparently Bush's father, Frank L. Bush, had cut down the trees many years before, to sell them to a casket company in East Nashville, where caskets were made during World War I.

These trees were evidently crucial to the location of the gold though, as the man became discouraged after learning that the trees showing triangulation were gone. So sadly, the old man then gave up his search. But not before telling Bush the story of how the Union gold came to be buried on that property. 

According to the old man, during the war, the Union army were coming on the Cumberland on a gunboat, while the state capitol was moving out. The old man was then assigned to a military detail going to the capitol building, where the gold was hidden in a dungeon. How it came to be located there was from one of Forrest's (Nathan Bedford, I assume) cavalry "ranged up as far as Ohio." On one of these forays, the federal payroll was captured. The old man's detail was assigned the task of burying the gold in the canebrakes beside the river. The old man then explained...

"You know soldiers don't like to do unnecessary work. So they threw the treasure in the well and covered it. There were three cannon caissons loaded with money. This detail of men hurried across the river to get out of the way of the oncoming Yankees." 

After hearing this story from the old man, Bush was more than interested. So he took this story to the state historian, but received no encouragement. The response he got was that if this really happened, the money was probably Conferedate currency, and therefore worthless. 

A few years later, Bush's interest was again resurrected thanks to a man who ran a vegetable wagon. The man asked Bush, "why don't you dig up that money that's buried on Bush Farm?" To this, Bush said he would if he knew where it was buried. The man then said "I know where it is!" Bush then agreed to try to locate it with the man on halves. 

The man showed up later that afternoon, around 3:30. Bush didn't lead him to the same tree that the previous man had, presumably waiting to see if the man was telling the truth. But the man led them to the same tree anyway, declaring that this was the vicinity. He then went to cut a switch, splitting one end and putting a silver quarter in the split. This is something I've never heard of, and neither had Bush. Bush admitted that he actually didn't believe in switching. 

The man then took the switch between his thumb and index finger on the end opposite the quarter, and went to work essentially. Bush said, "he would move about and that switch would always swing in one direction." Bush said it seemed impossible, but he'd been watching his hand closely the entire time. When the man finally arrived at a spot where the switch no longer moved, he identified the spot as the location of the buried treasure. The man then retrieved another stick, and held it over the spot. The switch nodded 23 times, evidently indicating that the gold was 23 feet deep.

Here's a more modern map of that area (modern as in circa 1960), that shows the lake on Bush's property. 

When Bush tried his hand at switching, nothing happened. Must not have had the right touch, I guess. They tried the switch on brass though and it was even stronger, which might explain its first response. Apparently the treasure is allegedly buried in 3 cannon caissons made of brass. 

What came of this discovery though? Nothing, and not for lack of trying. Bush said he was prepared to begin digging right then and there, and work through the night until the treasure was found. But the vegetable guy didn't quite agree, he believed he was right but "wasn't going to get caught there after dark." Bush then became discouraged and didn't do anything.

Over the years, he'd tried searching again with metal detectors, but no luck. Horseshoes, door knobs, old locks, and square nails have been found, but no treasure. But apparently ordinary metal detectors do not go that deep. Bush said in regards to people believing him...

"I don't blame people for not believing. But I would like for it to be found. I would like to have just one gold piece as a souvenir." 

As no other evidence has been found proving this treasure's existence since this story was written, who knows if anyone else has attempted looking for the treasure. Doubtful though. But if anyone else knows anything about this story and would like to share, I'm all ears! 


lucille ball


Sarah is a Program Coordinator with Metro Archives. Her interests and areas of expertise are history, reading books (of any kind), music, travel, Harry Potter, and bingeing a good comedy series. When not in Archives, she is either nose-deep in a book or planning her next trip. Learn more about the fascinating materials found at Metro Archives through their website.