Throwback Thursday – The Cavern Nite Club

A Bowling Green attraction was once home to one of the most famous nightclubs in the country. Celebrating over 90 years of history this year, the Cavern Nite Club at Lost River Cave was the coolest place to be both above and below ground in the 1930s. 

Legends of the Nite Club’s history say the cave was used during the 1920s Prohibition era for smuggling alcohol—after all, the hot spot was technically below ground. But in the 1930s, Billboard magazine hailed the Cavern Nite Club for being the “only air-conditioned” club in the U.S.—really it was the cave’s natural temperature that made it so chill. 

As travel along the Dixie Highway between Louisville and Nashville turned mainstream when everyone could buy an automobile, tourist motor courts and small motels popped up around the cave. And the Nite Club’s popularity grew.

It was Jimmy Stewart’s publicity, the Bowling Green businessman who owned the club from 1934 to 1949, that turned the club into a swinging place. Throughout the big band jazz era of the 1940s, many famous musicians and singers performed at the Cavern Nite Club. Big names like Dinah Shore and Francis Craig with his NBC orchestra could be heard from the cave’s bandstand. In those days, club partygoers could purchase a deluxe ice bowl with whiskey hidden inside for just $2.00.

The Cavern Nite Club bopped through the years until the construction of the new interstate highway system detoured travelers around the cave and off the Dixie Highway completely. Plus, the rock ‘n roll era changed the way entertainment venues operated. Jazz clubs fell out of style. The club was closed by the 1960s. 

Cave visitors today can still see the Cavern Nite Club’s original bar and stage as they admire the chandelier. Lost River Cave still hosts annual events on its old nightclub floor and forever brings that nostalgia to life.