Lost Memphis: The Claridge Hotel's Bell Tavern

Not historically correct by any means, but still a good place to eat and drink.



The story goes that Andrew Jackson (yes, the Battle of 1812 hero who would later become our seventh president), James Winchester, and John Overton — all of them Nashville land speculators at the time — gathered here in the Bell Tavern sometime around 1818 to lay out plans for the brand-new city of Memphis. You couldn’t describe the location as “downtown” since there wasn’t even a town yet. For that matter, I guess you couldn't even call it "Memphis." It was mainly just a collection of shops and buildings along the riverbluffs, and one of those ramshackle structures was known as the Bell Tavern.

But even though there’s not a grain of truth to that story (Jackson never bothered to come here — ever), that didn’t stop the Hotel Claridge from opening “an exact replica” of the old tavern, sometime in the 1960s, I believe. It featured “the finest charcoal grilling on an open grill, served in an atmosphere of casual informality.” Too bad Old Hickory never saw such a place. He might have come here more often.

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Famed Memphis trivia expert Vance Lauderdale answers reader questions weekly here on his blog!

About This Blog

Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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