The Southern Turf Building History
Built by wealthy bookmaker Marcus Cartwright in 1895, the Queen Anne-style Southern Turf Building was located in Nashville's notorious "Gentleman's Quarter" in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries.
The thriving Gentleman's Quarter was located on the 200 block of Cherry Street in downtown Nashville (today 4th Avenue North), and at the very heart was the Southern Turf Building, operating a saloon on the first floor, gambling parlor on the second floor and hotel (and bordello) on the third floor. It sold imported beers, wines, brandies and liquors and even sold whiskey for outside consumption.
Despite the sordid reputation, the Gentleman's Quarter was luxuriously decorated and furnished; the Southern Turf most of all, with bronze statues, lavish, intricate paintings, sumptuous mahogany furniture and even electric fans.
The Southern Turf saw a steady stream of male customers that included lawyers from nearby office buildings, businessmen traveling from the Maxwell House Hotel, and construction workers and riverboat crews from the Cumberland River. The support of Tennessee whiskey distilleries, including Jack Daniel's and George A. Dickel, and the lack of law enforcement, who were well aware of the illegal activities, helped keep the quarter thriving.
The Southern Turf shuttered in 1914 as a result of prohibition in Tennessee. The saloon was removed and the building became the Tennessee Publishing Company. In 1948, Skull Schulman opened Skull's Rainbow Room in the basement of the building, accessed via the Printers Alley entrance.
Nashville real estate developer and entrepreneur Bill Miller bought The Southern Turf Building and Skull's Rainbow Room in 2017 and added Sinatra Bar & Lounge, The Southern Turf Lofts and the members-only Southern Turf Club in 2023.