Monday, May 7, 2018

Vauxhall Nashville


The Vauxhall name has disappeared from Nashville and for most people is no longer a memory. It was first used here in the 1820's taken from the famed Vauxhall Gardens in London. Nashville's Vauxhall Gardens was just south of Demonbreun Street between 9th and 8th Avenues. It was a privately owned park, containing almost three acres. It was reported in a news article that a thick forest of native trees separated the city from Vauxhall Gardens. The entire area was commonly known as Southfield and was adjacent to the city. John Decker of the firm Decker and Dyer was the proprietor of the Vauxhall Gardens. A historical marker near the old location gives credit to both men, but a lawsuit filed in Chancery Court against the two reveals that Vauxhall Gardens was the property of John Decker.  and it was here that he opened Vauxhall Gardens. John Decker came to Nashville about 1815. He was in the confectionary business and he had a music store. In 1824 he entered into a partnership with Isham Dyer, who was married to Decker's daughter Harriett. Dyer was also a confectioner and Decker continue with his music business as well. In 1825 Decker and Dyer opened a reading room in Nashville. They provided books and newspapers from around the country for the subscribing members of the reading room. The many notices in newspapers of the early 1820's, show that Decker was determined to provide amusements for Nashvillians, in the form of dancing, concerts, and political gatherings. These entertainments were held in various locations until1825, when he opened the Vauxhall Gardens. 

No images of the gardens exist but it was described in several publications;

Eastin Morris' Tennessee Gazetteer, 1834.

"Vauxhall Garden is a place of fashionable resort, and is situated in the southern border of the city, near the Franklin turnpike. Here is an ingenious circular rail-way, two hundred and sixty two yards in circumference. The cars are so constructed that persons are enabled to propel themselves at a most rapid rate, simply by turning of a crank with the hands. There is also a large assembly room, handsomely decorated; and the promenade, walks and other places of amusement and recreation, are laid off and arranged in good taste. It is owned and kept by Mr. John Decker, a gentleman who spares no pains to render his parterre acceptable to visitors."

Old Days in Nashville Tenn: Reminiscences, Miss Jane Thomas, 1897.

"A man named Decker came to Nashville and opened a confectionary-shop. He built a
residence on Cedar Street. His daughter married Mr. Dyer. Decker bought two or three acres of land in South Nashville, and built a large one-story frame house and ball-room. He had a large garden planted with flowers and shurbs. All the balls, concerts and entertainments were give at 'Vauxhall,' as his place was called. He had a railroad built around the place, where people used to ride for amusement. It was a great place of resort, such as Glendale Park was during the summer of 1885.


Nashville and her trade for 1870, Charles E. Robert, 1870.

"Vauxhall Garden was, in that day, 'the place' of public resort, where all the public dinners, political and social gatherings, etc. were held. It was kept by John Decker afterward of the firm of Decker & Dyer' and was a fashionable resort."

A lawsuit in the late 1830's and the death of John Decker in 1839 brought an end to the gardens.

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Vauxhall Street ran from Broad Street to Vauxhall Gardens and is found on an 1833 map of Nashville. In the early 20th century the name of the street was changed to Ninth Avenue South. The property in that area was divided into building lot in the mid-1870's. Many large mansions were built along the street and it became a desired neighborhood.




Residence of E. B. Stahlman on Vauxhall Street, TSLA

Reeves Home on Vauxhall Street, TSLA
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Dr. Price's School, 1882 building on Vauxhall Street, TSLA.


In 1880 Dr. George W. F. Price established in Nashville a college for young ladies. By 1881, locals had taken notice of the quality of the education being provided by the school. A Board of Trust was created and took charge of the school with Dr. Price remaining as President. The board purchased a tract of land on Vauxhall Street near Broadway and constructed a new building for the school. The building was four stories plus a basement. There were several parlors on the main floor, reception rooms, an infirmary, a dining hall, kitchen and a suite of apartments for the president and his family. On the second floor, there was a chapel, classrooms, music rooms, and an art department. The third and fourth floors had bedrooms for the boarding students. The school, when it opened in September 1882, had an enrollment of 100 boarding students and 150-day students. Classes ranged from kindergarten to post high school. The board soon acquired the home and lot which fronted on Broad Street and was adjacent to the school. A smaller building was erected on the back of that lot which would become the chapel. 

The 1892 building on Broad Street, TSLA. The 1882 building can be seen in the background.
By 1892 a new building had been built, fronting Broad Street. It was an imposing structure, different from other buildings in Nashville. in the interior of the building was a grand rotunda which rose from the main floor to a dome which was crowned with a skylight of cathedral glass. The school attracted students from across the United States and from Europe. 

Daily American, August 21, 1892

Dr. Price died in April of 1899 in his apartment in the school he had founded. On May 31, 1899, a commencement exercise was held at the school. The son of Dr. Price spoke and he talked about the uncertain future of the school. It was the last graduation from the Nashville College for Young Ladies. By the time fall arrived, apartments were being let in the old school building which was called Vauxhall Flats.

The Vauxhall Apartments, Library of Congress. 

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Vanderbilt University purchased the property and for a few years, the school of dentistry was in the original 1882 school building on Vauxhall Street. Vanderbilt added an additional story to the 1882 building which changed the looks of it. The building on Broad Street became the Vauxhall Flats and eventually Vauxhall Apartments. In 1913 Vanderbilt remodeled the street level. New doors were cut and storefronts put in. The building front and west side became home to Southern Bank & Trust, McGee's Barber Shop, and Ocean Candy Co. were some of the tenants. Artist Betty Willie Newman had an art studio at the Vauxhall. Miss Elizabeth Price had a music studio there. In 1923, the Vauxhall building on Broad Street was sold. The name Vauxhall Apartments was retained. The original building on Vauxhall Street was called the Vauxhall Annex. Vanderbilt rented apartments there, until 1941, when the decision was made to demolish the building. In 1946 the site of the Vauxhall and adjoining properties were chosen for a proposed federal building. In August 1949 the Vauxhall was demolished. A photo caption under a Tennessean photo described the old building as smoke-stained and history-haunted. 



Vauxhall Apartments, ca 1945. Zepp

Much of the information for this article came from Nashville newspaper article published  from 1816 through 1950. Other sources are noted in the article.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for more history, Debie. I see the Baptist steeple and Train Station front.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A most interesting article and the old pictures are fantastic!

    ReplyDelete

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