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Clarksville in Montgomery County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Dunbar Cave

— TN Music Pathways —

 
 
Dunbar Cave Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, January 7, 2023
1. Dunbar Cave Marker
Inscription.  Dunbar Cave was a popular resort for many years prior to becoming a state park. Beginning in 1875, investors created opportunities to stay at Dunbar Cave and the nearby Idaho Springs. People were attracted by the perceived medicinal qualities of the spring waters and the cool air that vents out of the cave, which keeps the area in front of the cave cool even in the summer. Over the following 60 years, cabins were built, a wooden dance floor at the cave mouth was built, and an artificial lake was built. Even a three-story hotel was built near Dunbar Cave, which later burned. The cave resort changed ownership multiple times in the late 19th century.

In 1931, the Dunbar Cave and Idaho Springs Corporation bought the cave and surrounding land. They added electric lights in the cave, a swimming pool and bathhouse, and a concrete dance floor and bandstand at the cave mouth. They also enlarged the artificial lake. Big bands played there, including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Lena Horne, and Tommy Dorsey. The on-site Idaho Springs Hotel accommodated 200 guests. The bathhouse from this operation today serves as the park visitor center. The
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original gate-house is located in the pollinator garden.

Country musician Roy Acuff purchased the site in 1948. Country music parks were a substantial business in the Southeast. Usually operating on Sundays, they often featured artists who starred on the Grand Ole Opry the preceding day. Although country music had not been featured at Dunbar Cave yet, Acuff saw the potential for both country and pop shows.

Over the July Fourth weekend in 1948, Acuff publicized his new ownership by booking Owen Bradley and his orchestra on July 3. Acuff himself headlined a show on the Fourth, followed by fireworks. The following night, Beasley Smith (who had co-written Acuff's hit “Night Train to Memphis”) brought in his orchestra. Bradley continued to play many Saturday nights at Dunbar Cave over the next several years.

Acuff made Dunbar his home base when he wasn't touring. He played here on Tuesdays and Fridays, and broadcasted the Friday show on the Opry's home station, WSM, from 11:30 p.m. until midnight. Acuff installed his siblings Juanita, Briscoe and Claude “Spot” Acuff as site managers. Acuff made several additions to the resort, such as a large amphitheater on the east side of the lake to accommodate the attendance to the new country shows and a golf course.

The advent of air conditioning made the cave's cool air less attractive. As other forms of entertainment
Dunbar Cave Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, January 7, 2023
2. Dunbar Cave Marker
became popular, Dunbar Cave drained Acuff's resources. In November 1966, Acuff sold the resort. He said, “It had gotten to be like a football game. You can carry the ball just so far. I felt I had put enough money into it.” In 1971, the property was closed and often vandalized. On Nov. 2, 1973, the State of Tennessee bought the remainder of the property, and today operates it through the Department of Environment and Conservation as a state park to preserve and protect the cultural, natural, and historical resources of Dunbar Cave.

[Captions]
• (Bottom left) The dance floor at Dunbar Cave during a music event.
• (Bottom right) Roy Acuff addressing the audience in the amphitheater.
 
Erected 2022 by Tennessee Music Pathways.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicIndustry & CommerceNatural FeaturesParks & Recreational Areas. In addition, it is included in the Tennessee Music Pathways series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1875.
 
Location. 36° 33.03′ N, 87° 18.347′ W. Marker is in Clarksville, Tennessee, in Montgomery County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Dunbar Cave Road and Old Dunbar Cave Road, on the left when traveling east.
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Marker is behind the visitor center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 401 Old Dunbar Cave Rd, Clarksville TN 37043, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 1933 Swimming Pool & Bathhouse (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Dunbar Cave (within shouting distance of this marker); Affricanna Town (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Dunbar Cave (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Affricanna Town (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Three Sisters Garden (about 300 feet away); Wetland (about 400 feet away); Roy Acuff (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Clarksville.
 
Also see . . .  Clarksville residents interviewed for new Dunbar Cave film. News article with numerous historical photographs of the resort. (Debbie Boen, Clarksville Online, posted Jan. 20, 2008) (Submitted on January 8, 2023, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 8, 2023. It was originally submitted on January 8, 2023, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 113 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 8, 2023, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Apr. 21, 2024