The Lost River Caves. Not at all in Nashville. Not even in the same state, oh no. Still in Kentucky here, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, more or less the last major place on the freeway south out of here and into Tennessee. A remarkable place, with surely the most refreshing and picturesque location for a dance floor I will ever see.
During the simmering summers of the 1930s, folks in Bowling Green headed to Lost River Cave’s ‘natural air conditioning’ to escape the heat. By the late 1930s, the cool cavern had grown into a hot-spot, a truly underground nightclub, touted nationally in Billboard magazine.
“According to an original road sign, the cave was called the ‘Cavern Nite Club,’” said Rho Lansden, Lost River Cave’s first and only executive director. “The Cavern Nite Club was operated from 1934 through 1949 by Jimmy Stewart, a Bowling Green businessman, as a tourist attraction. The underground night club was a stop on the big band tours, with well-known entertainers such as Francis Craig and his NBC Orchestra, and Dinah Shore performing. You could purchase a ‘deluxe ice,’ a bowl of ice for $2 in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Under the ice was a half-pint of Yellow Stone whisky,” Lansden said. “In 1939, the Cavern Nite Club was named as the only air conditioned night club in the country by Billboard magazine.”
In 1934, the cave celebrated the first of its many weddings. Bowling Green social clubs held elegant formal dances to big bands. High schools held proms. Dancing to big band sounds, swing, and jitterbug, the subterranean party ended with the arrival of the Sixties. (Credit : Bowling Green tourism website).
The unique venue opened in 1933, hosting dances and big bands! Amazingly, you can still go and dance to local bands there today, including a 20+ piece big band called Radio Daze!
Here are a couple of pictures I took down there. The first describes the pioneering nature of the ‘nite club’! In the second picture, you can see the waterfall and the dance floor immediately to the right with the stage in the far corner visible for the band to play from. What a setting!
Here are a few more pictures I took of pictures on the wall there showing scenes from the pre-war period at the Lost River Caves. Heady days. How lucky were those who could call this venue their local dance ‘hall’ ? One of the bands that played here in the 1930s was the Roy Holmes Orchestra, from Glasgow. No, not Scotland. Glasgow, south Kentucky, about 30 miles due east of Bowling Green. Unfortunately, I have no more information on these pictures than you can already see for yourself in them.
Finally, here is a beautiful picture of how the cave’s dance floor can be set up today to accommodate a wedding and similar function – stunning!