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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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: 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. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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