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From Market to 2nd Ave: A Look Back at One of Nashville's Oldest Streets, Part 2

February 12, 2021
View of 2nd Ave at Church St, circa 1950-60's

If you haven't read part I in this series that covers the history of Market Street/2nd Ave, I'd recommend you check that out first. 

But picking up where I left off in the previous post, I'm now beginning to talk about the history of the street around the turn of the century, which is when the name of the street changed from Market to 2nd Ave.

Sorry this one is MUCH longer than the first post, but there's just so much to talk about and I weighed it down with photos as well!

Like the previous post, if you'd prefer to simply look at photos, check out the slideshows below. The first is of the damage from the Christmas Day, 2020 bombing, and the second slideshow includes photos from the 1976 Market Street Fall Festival (slides donated to Metro Archives by Fletch Coke)...

Aftermath of bombing on Christmas Day, 2020
Photos of 2nd Ave after the bombing on Christmas Day, 2020. Photos courtesy of Metro Photographer, Michael Bunch.
Market Street Festival in Nashville, Fall 1976
1976 Market Street Fall Festival

From a Noun to a Number 

View of Market Street/2nd Ave sign from 1976 Market Street Festival
View of Market Street/2nd Ave sign from 1976 Market Street Festival

The bill to "rename the streets west of the Cumberland River, running North and South" was introduced by the City Council as bill no. 90 in October, 1904, and passed in December of the same year. Like pretty much every city in the country, the names were changed in the interest of efficiency. 

The photo below is from the 1904 Nashville City Council Minutes, featuring the bills on introduction from October, 1904. 

1904 Nashville City Council Minutes

And just as a historical side note about the other changes being proposed to the city, you'll notice in the above image a few other items being proposed at the same time as the street renaming:

  • Street car segregation: "Providing for separate street cars for white and colored persons." Sadly, we already know that this passed but was often met with resistance, like in this Criminal Court case from 1921...
Criminal Court Case from 1921 involving segregated street cars
The State vs. Edna Smith court case from October, 1921, where Smith was arrested after she refused to take the seat assigned to her by the conductor
  • "Providing for all employees of the City to reside in the corporate limits of the City." This passed.
  • "Amending privilege license law as to circus parades." Random, but there you have it. 

Why Do We HAVE to Change the Name?

Like most changes in Nashville, the name change proposal was not fully welcome by all citizens of Nashville; some felt the need to express their discontent via an op-ed, which also shows that even though the bill was introduced in October, it was clearly a rumor around town beforehand. 

Clipping from the Nashville American from March, 1904
Nashville American clipping from March, 1904

More Businesses Over the Years

Ad from City Directory for Nashville Sash and Door Company
City Directory ad for Nashville Sash and Door Company

Just like in part I of this series, I included a list of various businesses that had once existed on Market Street. The indexing of businesses from city directories is still on-going, but so far, the years listed below are what I've been able to index and I wanted to cover a large timespan.

Where hotels, saloons, candy shops and other tradesmen once called home, now saw a gradual shift from a market-type area to more manufacturing. The most prominent household-known businesses were H.G. Lipscomb & Co., Wholesale Hardware; Nashville Sash and Door Co.; Washington Mfg. Co.; and actually, many candy shops. 

View of the Nashville Sash and Door Co. on 2nd Ave, in 1978
View of the Nashville Sash and Door Co. in August, 1978

So though this isn't every business that once existed, here's a few that once called 2nd Ave home in the 20th century...

Food, Beverages, Grocers, etc. 

In the early 1900's, the creator of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company (brewers of Maxwell-House Coffee), Joel Owsley Cheek, actually spent a few years on Market Street, learning his trade. The same building mentioned further down as the home for the Nashville Sash and Door Co. (148-152), is where he worked as a grocer, clerk, traveling agent and partner for Webb, Cheek, & Co.

Daily American clipping from September, 1882
Clipping from the Daily American from September, 1882

Though the 1901 Directory doesn't seem to match the name, you still see what the Cheek's were up to in that year...

1901 City Directory listing for the Cheek family

1911-12 Directories:

  • @ 100 2nd Ave: David H. Egan, "Soft Drinks" - Beverages that became more popular thanks to Prohibition, and especially this early on since Nashville established some of their own laws before the 18th Amendment.  
  • @ 108: M.E. Derryberry & Co., Whole Grocers 
  • @ 115: Nashville Dairy Supply Co.
  • @ 151: Hill's Restaurant
  • @ 158: Britt & Roberts, fruits (also there up through 1931)
  • @ 176: Orr, Jackson & Co., Whole Grocers
Tennessean clipping from November, 1909
Ad in the Tennessean from November, 1909

1920-21 Directories:

  • @ 127: Ame Tea & Coffee Co.
  • @ 130: Hooper Grocery Co.

1931 Directory:

  • @ 106 (and residence at 106 1/2): K P Douvros Restaurant
  • @ 108: Fireside Coffee Co.
  • @ 164-168: Orr Robt & Co. Inc., Whole Grocery's (a store that I believe was there before and remained on 2nd Ave for many years)
1976 Market Street Festival photo, showing the Robert Orr Co.
1976 Market Street Festival photo, showing the front of Robert Orr & Co.

1961 Directory:

  • @ 100: Four Leaf Clover Restaurant 
  • @ 111: Parker & Co. Food Brokers
  • @ 149: Chambers Restaurant

More Candy Shops

1911-12 Directories:

  • @ 123-125: Huggins Candy Co., Candy Manufacturers

1920-21 Directories:

1922 City Directory ad for Candy Companies
1922 City Directory ads, what are baby bunting chocolates?
  • @ 143: Sterling Candy Manufacturing Co.
  • @ 169-171: Eagle Candy & Co. 

1931 Directory: 

  • @ 127: Lovelace Candy Co. 

1961 Directory:

  • @ 145, 147: Lovelace Candy Co. and Manufacturing Co.  

Liquor Stores

Nashville American clipping from June, 1908
Clipping from the Nashville American from June, 1908

1911-12 Directories:

  • @ 134-136: Charles Nelson Whole Liquors
  • @ 175: Jack Daniel's Whole Liquors

Other Businesses 

To keep this short, this is just all other types of businesses that once called 2nd Ave home...

1911-12 Directories:

  • @ 111: Paul Bansen, Jeweler 
  • @ 116: Postal Tel Cable Co. 
  • @ 139-143: Goodpasture & Tennison, Harness and Saddle Manufacturers
  • @ 182: John Deere Plow Co. (by 1920-21, the company's address changed to 118 2nd Ave) 

1920-21 Directories:

  • @ 128: Cline & Bernheim; Hebrew Relief Society
  • @ 150 (1931), 154 (1920-21): Nashville Bag & Burlap Co.
  • @ 174: Berry Demoville & Co.
1922 City Directory for a Wholesale Drugs and Pharmacy on 2nd Ave
1922 City Directory ad for a Pharmacy on 2nd Ave
1922 City Directory ad for Sanders Manufacturing Co.
1922 ad for Sanders Manufacturing Co., that made almost everything.

1931 Directory:

  • @ 104: Walter Melton, Barber
  • @ 184: Tenn Glass Co. and the Second Avenue Tailor Shop

1961 Directory: 

  • @ 111: Dobson-Hicks Co. Whole Seeds
  • @ 120-24: Am Paper & Twine Co.
  • @ 128-30: Berry Whole Drug Co.
  • @ 148-52: Nashville Sash & Door Co. - I already mentioned this business above, but it was also located in a unique building that featured some of the most elaborate moldings and cornices of any façade on the street. The business remained at this address from approximately 1927-1984, before relocating to the suburbs (as the growing traffic downtown made the "warehouse district" difficult to navigate). 
View of 2nd Ave businesses in 1972
View of 2nd Ave N businesses in 1972

This last business isn't on 2nd Ave, but I have to say, their ad gets straight to the point...

1922 City Directory ad for Mt. Olivet Cemetery
1922 ad for Mt. Olivet Cemetery...keeping it real.

"Magnificent Statement of Architectural Heritage"

Photo of 2nd Ave from May, 1999
View of 2nd Ave in May, 1999

Despite the street's early years as a bustling market area with a variety of businesses, things changed in the late 20th century.

Over the years, the street was widened, causing the westside buildings to either move back or cut off their façades. More traffic flowed through, parking was brought on and then taken away again later (slanted parking spaces that is); actually parking remained an issue for the downtown businesses when parking spaces were taken away (it still can be a pain even now).

2nd Ave N facing the Courthouse, circa 1960-70's
View of 2nd Ave N, circa 1960-70's, when parking existed on the street

Various types of businesses came and went, ultimately changing the attraction and use of 2nd Ave. 

As of today, we know 2nd Ave as a popular attraction to many, but at one point, this downtown area was mostly avoided outside of work hours. In fact, at least in the early 1970's, "the average Nashvillian [was] oblivious to the street and indeed to the area." It was in an area " that dowdy section of town away from and down the hill from all the action." With warehouses taking up most of the street, shopping died down and living down there seemed less desirable.

One of the articles I read goes into thorough detail of the condition of 2nd Ave in 1972, and the importance of preserving the street for obvious reasons, and the quality of the city, essentially. 

1972 Tennessee Historical Review article about preserving 2nd Ave
1972 Tennessee Historical Review article about preserving 2nd Ave N.

In the winter, 1972 edition of the Tennessee Historical Review, Neil Bass (a Nashville architect) provides a reverent description of the buildings and their history...

"...there is a quite dignity to the street - a strong sense of unity - like every building is locked arm in arm with his neighbor profoundly but silently testifying to the spirit and vigor of Nashville in the 1870's." 

The writer also goes into detail of what makes these buildings unique by themselves and as one collection, which I'll just provide a small clip of (cause it covers an entire page)...

"There is a remarkable continuity in the facades - each of brick, each punctuated with a rhythm of windows arranged with regularity without being repetitious and each crowned by a projecting short, the street is an architectural masterpiece." 

Poster for the Market Street Fall Festival in 1977

Preserving the History

In the late 1970's, the Metro Historical Commission worked with 4 other organizations to put on the Market Street Fall Festival, as a way to bring awareness to the Historic 2nd Ave Warehouse District and help revitalize it. I'm not sure how many years the festival took place, but at least for three years (1975-77).

See the slideshow of photos from the 1976 festival at the top of the blog post. 

Tennessean clipping from September 4th, 1984 about the changing 2nd Ave
Tennessean clipping from September, 1984

The Historical Review article was coincidentally written at the same time that "the area" (meaning 2nd Ave N, Broadway to Union) was being added to the National Register of Historic Places because it was deemed by many historians, to be...

"...the largest uninterrupted assembly of commercial Victorian structures in the nation."

This would help protect the buildings and district in the coming years. Though sadly, not always, like in the case of the buildings torn down after a devastating fire in October, 1985, that left very little on the east side of 2nd Ave N in the 200 block.

Only the façades remained after the fire, and sadly those weren't able to be saved either with the owners of the building having no interest in preserving what was left (according to the news clipping I read, at least). 

Nashville Banner clipping from November, 1985
Nashville Banner clipping from November, 1985
View of 2nd Ave building after fire in 1985

An interesting piece of info about Neil Bass (the writer of the Historical Review article), he actually restored the building at 170 2nd Ave N in 1968. So his article was like a "do as I say AND do as I do".

This apparently stirred a renewed interest in the historic street; in fact, I came across several news articles throughout the 1980's, talking about the various buildings being renovated with plans for hotels, restaurants, and other attractions.

Tennessean clipping from 1982, showing 2nd Ave
Tennessean clipping from June, 1982

Quite a bit of change occurred, so much that a 1994 news clipping references a downtown property owner saying 2nd Ave was "getting like Reno", with the addition of "flashing signs and loud speakers" making the street "tacky". To each their own opinion, I guess. 

So, what came next for the street was the consideration of adding it to the already-existing Capitol Mall Redevelopment District, limiting the types of businesses that came to 2nd Ave.

That meant excluding places like liquor stores and adult entertainment establishments. I've only come across news articles about the attempt to add the street to the district though, never a confirmation that it was added. If anyone knows the answer, let me know! 

Photo from Mayor Purcell's papers from the 1990's
From Mayor Purcell's Papers, view of 2nd Ave in the '90's, including the Wildhorse Saloon.

Big changes came in 1996 though, when the Metro Council adopted a historic zoning overlay for 2nd Ave, making it impossible for property owners to change the look of their buildings without approval from the Metro Historic Commission. 

But with this overlay, this helps protect the architectural and historical integrity that makes up one of Nashville's oldest streets. This is most important especially now as we rebuild after the bombing, and Bass' article provides a great quote to summarize why...

"...for the new and vigorous rebuilding of the downtown area is an essential ingredient of a wholesome city." 

Drawing of 2nd Ave N during the late 1990's

Detailed Property Info on 2nd Ave Buildings

View of 2nd Ave N buildings, circa late 1990's
From Mayor Purcell Papers, View of 2nd Ave buildings from late 1990's

Doing a thorough property research of the entire block of 2nd Ave, between Broadway and Church, is quite an extensive process. One I WISH I had the time for; but thankfully I don't need to. 

The Special Collections department here at the Library are a wonderful partner to us in Archives, and provided me with some extra help for this 2nd Ave history dive; thank you again, Linda Barnickel!

I'll briefly explain the background of one of the buildings that was heavily damaged from the bombing. But for all other details, I'll send to you to the Content DM page created by Linda (and look out for a future blog post by Special Collections, talking more about this specific page). 

The information is from the Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey Collection, and includes photographs and an inventory background on each building. For example, here's what you can learn about 174 2nd Ave N (the building that's totally collapsed): 

  • Built in 1875
  • At the time of the survey in 1980, it was occupied by Southern Coat & Dress Co. 

  • Made of brick, 4 stories tall. It has tall, rectangular windows with heavy, ornamented hoods. The cornice at the top of the structure is identical in style with 176 2nd Avenue North, and is a typical feature of the Italianate architectural style. 

  • In the basement of the building (that opens onto 1st Ave), there is an old, coal-fired furnace, dated 1890. 

  • Though I'm not sure who the first resident of this building was when it was first built - in 1908, the drug firm "Berry and Demoville" that been previously established in 1834, moved to this building from the Public Square.

Tennessean clipping from 1982, advertising office space for lease at 176 2nd Ave N
1982 Tennessean clipping advertising office space for lease at 176 2nd Ave N.


Photo showing damage done to 2nd Ave buildings
Photo showing the damage done to the buildings on 2nd Ave N. Photo by Metro Photographer, Michael Bunch

Lastly, I'll leave you with a slideshow of Market Street/2nd Ave images that span almost 200 years...

Early View of Market Street

'Til next time, 


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.