Non-profit focuses on restoring Printer's Alley - WKRN News 2

Non-profit focuses on restoring Printer's Alley

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A prominent sign that hangs in a famed downtown Nashville alley is gone, replaced with an exact replica.

The Printer's Alley sign next to Fiddle & Steel Guitar Bar was removed Wednesday morning.

The mini-billboard for the "World Famous" alley has been a welcome sign to visitors for the last 30 years.

"If you walk through here during the day, you will see tourists walking by here all the time reading the history of the alley and taking pictures of it," said Elizabeth Mayhall, boardmember for The District, the non-profit group responsible for replacing the faded sign.

The old, hand painted sign was flanked by dancing girls and provided a small history of the more than century-old strip that has provided entertainment since the days of Vaudeville. While the words were still visible, the artwork was faded.

"Through the years, water has seeped behind the signs, and they become deteriorated," Mayhall said.

The District, made up of those who live and work in the area, had pushed for a new sign for nearly a decade. The money was approved in 2008, but the project didn't get going until artist Ron Sweeney was commissioned to do the artwork.

The small group not only replaced the sign, they also funded new gutters and framework surrounding it.

"This is part of Nashville history that I think is important to keep," said Mayhall.

"Lot of people think Printer's Alley is seedy. It's great business [and] great entertainment," added Philip Martin.

Martin is also part of The District. He bought Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar at a time when Printer's Alley was less than appealing.

"When we got the business, it had been closed down, and it was just in shambles," he said. "Everything. Seating, walls, plumbing, electrical, what have you. Rebuilding it was quite the shore."

Today, the bright lights of Martin's bar share the spotlight with rental lofts, Fleet Street Pub, and other thriving businesses. Even the alley's trash cans have character, artistically painted with names like Johnny Trash, Dolly Carton, and George Junk.

The local support to preserve the long, colorful history of the alley and to keep the area moving forward is needed because, although Printer's Alley is in the historic district, it's not protected.

"There's no historic zoning overlay like there is on 2nd Avenue and Broadway," Mayhall said. "And so, really, any of these buildings could be torn down. We could lose the entertainment area of Printer's Alley."

On Wednesday, onlookers were surprised when the old sign was removed and revealed another painted advertisement for The Embers, a steakhouse that shutdown in the late 1970s.

After a few photographs were taken, the new, identical sign for Printer's Alley was put in place.

The old sign was kept for possible auction at a later time.

More changes are expected for Printer's Alley. The well-known Skull's Rainbow Lounge, closed since 1999, has been purchased by Martin. It's currently being gutted and remodeled to reopen as a speakeasy-style entertainment venue later this fall.

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