Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nashville Opium Den

Nashville Daily American
, April 13, 1889

Nashville Opium Den.

Where Good Citizens (?) [sic] Go for Recreation.

The Joint as it Appeared Last Night.

Squalid and Criminal Debauchery That Prevails in the Very Heart of the City.

An American reporter heard a few days since of the existence of an opium joint in this city.
On investigating the rumor the reporter found it to be true; and a more repulsive, disgusting, and disgraceful den of iniquity was never before heard of in Nashville.

It is located on the topmost floor of a pretentious brick structure on Broad street near the junction of Cherry and does not suffer for patronage. Its filthy frequenters can be seen going to and from it, from evening twilight until the dawn of day.

Notwithstanding that there is no law against the operation of such a den, its directors keep a vigilant eye on all visitors for fear that

Some Spying Traitor

will learn their unholy secrets and publish its horrors to the world.

The police have for some time been cognizant of the existence of this place but, there being no prohibitive State or corporation law, they are powerless to break it up. They nevertheless kept it under close surveillance in the hope that it will breed some act of lawlessness that will warrant a raid.

The result of its contaminating influence can be seen nightly. On several occasions the police have discovered the inmates of Front street bagnios reveling in the fumes of opium.

Only last week Officers Bauman and Vinson arrested a man at Sadie Wilson’s assignation house in the act of teaching its inmates how to use the opium pipe.

Both man and pipe were taken to the station but the prisoner was discharged the following morning for want of a law to punish him.

Nashville people learn of the existence of such dives in Chicago, New York and San Francisco and extend to those cities their heartfelt sympathy, little dreaming that charity, in this case, as well as in many others, begins at home.


The operation of the Nashville dive, to say the least of it, is interesting. The mode of entrance is difficult to the stranger. No one is ever admitted through the front door, but he or she who seeks admittance must go to the side door and tap gently on its glass. A woman will open the door, and if, after a most careful scrutiny she thinks that the applicant is not a detective or a reporter, she admits him. She then guides him through a room which generally several men and women are lolling. After leaving the room she takes him up several flights of stairs, and finally ushers him into a room almost suffocating of the smoke of that weed, whose slaves are seen stretched about the floor, in attitudes so indecent as to forbid description. These depraved and soundly slumbering wretches the fair attendant passes with a kick if they happen to obstruct her pathway. She leads them into other apartments [copy illegible] where MEN AND WOMEN are languidly smoking long pipes of Chinese manufacture. She asks him if he would like to “hit the pipe,” and if he replies negatively leaves him to view the demoralization of humanity.

Inhaling the fumes which arise on every side you soon begin to feel your head growing extremely dizzy and your first thought is to get some fresh air. If you return down stairs and ask the cook who frequents such a place the reply is “everybody,” and those who know say that “everybody” means men who are apparently above suspicion. In a confidential chat with a man whom the writer met in this den of vice he learned that one or two Chinamen were conducting SIMILAR PLACES In different parts of the city.

There will be an effort made immediately to secure  the passage of a bill through the City Council prohibiting this injurious and demoralizing habit.

The names of the operators of the joint on Broad street are not positively known, but it is said that there are several prominent gamblers of Nashville interested in it.