Throwback Thursday – The most happening place in town: The Quonset

Throwback Thursday this week is The Quonset story, one of a long-gone Bowling Green entertainment venue. Originally on the corner of the Bypass and Old Louisville Road, the Quonset was demolished over 15 years ago. Dubbed “the most happening place in town,” let’s go back in time.

During World War II, Quonset huts became common military buildings, easy to build and maintain, popping up quickly and easily moved. Built in 1946 in Bowling Green by brothers Joe and Kenny Marshall and Frank Dunn, The Quonset auditorium could hold about 700 spectators. A venue for concerts, wrestling matches, and church services, it brought entertainment to town.

The Quonset was a cultural melting pot, operating from 1946 to 1959. There were initially segregated entrances and seating, but eventually concerts and talent called for integration. The first integrated band in the region played on The Quonset stage together as the black House Rockers band joined Joe Marshall’s Rovin’ Ramblers in the mid-1950s. 

Some of the most famous R&B, country, blues, and gospel acts of the post-war era stopped in Bowling Green between performances in Nashville and Louisville. Names like Ike and Tina Turner, B.B. King, James Brown, Ray Charles, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Patty LaBelle, Etta James, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and more played there. 

The Quonset survived for another few decades as several types of businesses. There was a push for historic preservation from the Landmark Association in the early 2000s before The Quonset was demolished for a water treatment facility. 

In 2010, a mini-documentary on The Quonset was produced by KET out of Amber Ridington’s Master’s thesis research at WKU. The Kentucky Folklife Festival put together a traveling exhibit dedicated to The Quonset, and it appeared in several locations across the state. The documentary can be seen on Ridington’s website.