Although Memphis had quite a number of nightclubs in the 1940s and 1950s, the two that get mentioned the most by readers of my column are the Silver Slipper and the Cottage Inn. I’ll talk more about the Silver Slipper someday, and — if I feel like it — even post some photos of what’s left of the property, which once stood along Macon Road.
But today I just wanted to share a couple of interesting images of the Cottage Inn, which was tucked away between present-day Park Avenue and Poplar Avenue, just east of Ridgway. Years ago, if you were driving east on Poplar, a narrow road angled off to the right and intersected with Poplar Pike. The Cottage Inn was on that narrow road (which survives today as the street running behind the Shea Clinic — pretty much where a Residence Inn stands today.) Anyway, many years ago, I managed to find a dinner menu for this establishment, with an illustration on the cover (above) that showed it was certainly much fancier than its humble name implied — a gleaming Art Deco building, with spacious grounds and some kind of stone fountain in the front.
Yes, I know it’s not a very clear picture, but it’s all I have.
If you squint, you can see that atop the handsome building was a huge neon sign saying COTTAGE INN, and there was another illuminated sign by the entrance. The inside of the menu is blank, so I can’t tell you what they served at this establishment. A note on the back invites patrons, “If we have not served you well, tell us. If there is anything wrong, our disposition is to make it right.”
I know that a fellow named Walter Clark owned the Cottage Inn, but that’s about all I know. I can’t tell you when it opened, or when it closed. I do know that in the late 1960s, the property was abandoned, because some pals of mine ventured into the old building and told me later they found it crammed with bales of hay! And even when the building was demolished shortly after that, if you knew where to look, you could find the Cottage’s rusty neon sign lying in the weeds off Poplar. For now, though, the only remnants of one of our city’s most popular nightspots are menus like this, tucked away in drawers and scrapbooks.
Here’s a scan of the menu’s front cover. If you visit the site today, at Poplar and Ridgeway, it’s hard to believe such a large “cottage” could fit there, but that’s indeed where it was.