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What is Printers Alley?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Printers Alley derived it name from its association with the publishing and printing companies that once made its home in the area. Newspapers and print shops, as well as more than a dozen publishers at one point called Printers Alley home from the early 1800s until the late 1900s. A three-block area nestled in Nashville's downtown area, Printers Alley also has been associated with entertainment during its history.

Printers Alley is an actual street that showcases Victorian architecture. However, the phrase also refers to neighboring streets. Nearby roads include Church Street, Union Street, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, and Bank Alley.

Printers would congregate in the alley when their machines were not running. During its heyday as a hub for the printing industry in the late 1800s, businesses began to pop up to accommodate the needs of the printers. Known as the "men's quarters," hotels, cafes, gambling halls, and saloons opened up shop. During Prohibition, the neighborhood housed many speakeasies.

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Slowly, printing businesses started moving away and during the 1940s, nightclubs began popping up, transforming the cobblestone alley into a showcase for musical performers. Nightclubs that have opened in the alley since include Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar, known for its live blues music, Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar, a country music club, and Ms. Kelli's, a karaoke bar that contains more than 50,000 tunes to choose from. Since transforming into a nightclub district, Hank Williams Sr., Chet Atkins, Roger Miller, Jimmy Dean, Hank Williams Jr., Andy Griffith, and Connie Frances have all performed in Printers Alley at one point. During the 1970s, Paul McCartney toured Printers Alley, and it is said that during that time McCartney was inspired to write the song "Sally G" for his band Wings.

A former bar in the district included the Rainbow Room, owned by David "Skull" Schullman. Schullman was so popular that the city council of Nashville once named him the "Mayor of Printers Alley." Schullman operated an adult entertainment establishment. The club was the only establishment of its type to have live music for its performers. During the 1990s, the club was renovated into a country music bar.

The district is also home to many firsts in Nashville. The alley was home to the first parking garage in Nashville. Also, the first skyscraper in Tennessee's capital was located in the alley. The Nashville Life and Casualty Tower opened in 1957 at the intersection of 4th Avenue North and Church Street.

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Lostnfound
Post 2

Saw something on social media a few days ago about Printers Alley possibly being endangered by investors who want to take over part of the property by building a boutique hotel there. That really stinks!

I swear, Nashville used to be the coolest place in the world. Ever since Gaylord Entertainment ate Opryland and downtown, though, it's getting downright generic. Even Tootsie's has cleaned up, and it's supposed to be a genuine dive!

I don't frequent strip bars when I go to Nashville, but it's a country music town and needs to retain some of the seediness. But the suits have taken over country music, so I guess it's inevitable they take over everything we love about Nashville, too.

Grivusangel
Post 1

The first time I ever went to Printers Alley, it was mostly strip clubs, but we found a cool club called Bayou Jubilee. It's closed now. It was about 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside. We were greeted by a nice woman who said, "The waitress is out back having a smoke, but I'm the bartender and I'll be glad to get you a beer." Vintage Nashville.

The place had great Cajun food and a hot Zydeco band. I was with my sister and we enjoyed the heck out of ourselves. We were staying downtown, and on the way back to our hotel, we saw a few people out, but it was so cold, even the panhandlers were staying inside!

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