Throwback Thursday: Saving the Southern Queen, part two

Last week, we shared a little bit of the story of the old Southern Queen Hotel in downtown
Bowling Green. In the historic Shake Rag district, the Southern Queen was once the jewel of the
Black community, the gathering place. In the second and final installment of this special
Throwback Thursday series, we take a deeper dive into the history of the artifacts that the City
of Bowling Green was able to save from inside the old Southern Queen Hotel property – at the
corner of Second and State streets.

In its heyday of the 1950s and 60s, the Southern Queen Hotel was operated by Mrs. Ashula
Williams and Mrs. Delores Moses. Mrs. Williams was a 1907 grammar school graduate from
Bowling Green Public Schools, and we found her certificate signed by T.C. Cherry himself. Mrs.
Moses was the librarian and choir teacher at High Street High School. The Moses and Williams
families were deeply rooted in the community.

They were members of State Street Baptist Church, served on committees, and Reverend
Moses was one of the most beloved characters in the church’s history. The City found dozens of
old State Street church bulletins from the 1950s and 60s, records of church clubs and special
events dating back to the 1940s. The city also found High Street High School histories,
enrollment cards, student-published newsletters, High Street High Mustang yearbooks,
and even basketball and football programs from the high school.

At one point, the Southern Queen Hotel had its own stationary, business cards, and sponsored
advertisements in the old basketball and football programs. Bills, letters, and postcards meant
for Mrs. Williams or Mrs. Moses were even addressed to the Southern Queen household.
Photos of the Southern Queen Hotel’s front porch with a glance down Second Avenue’s dirt
road are probably dated to the mid-1930s. The home had a large wraparound porch, perfect for
community gatherings. They say students used to visit the State Street gymnasium after school,
still across the street in its original shell, and stop on the porch of the Queen for ice
cream or snacks. Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Moses loved their students and the community, and
these strong Black female leaders were beloved characters.

The City stabilized this property so a developer can restore it, creating some form of gathering
space for this neighborhood. The City will soon be announcing the opportunity for public
proposals to be submitted for the Southern Queen property. The City will determine which
project is best suited for the public and neighborhood while telling the Shake Rag story, based
on conversations with the Shake Rag community leaders, African American Museum, and Kentucky

After a full inventory, the historically significant items found will be made available as donations
to the nonprofit museum professionals to preserve. The City itself is not selling the Southern
Queen property and is not netting a profit. The City answered the call to preserve the history of
this neighborhood and is seeking the best fit to continue telling these stories.
Brought to you by Hart County Tourism and the Kentucky Museum. In Bowling Green, because
local matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.