On a rainy Friday afternoon, about a half-dozen people stay dry inside the storied Phoenix Hill Tavern on Baxter Avenue.
The venue ended a 40-year run when it closed last year. And as anyone who ever visited knows, the 25,000-square-foot event space was also known for its memorabilia and antiques, which are being sold at auction.
All hands were on deck as auctioneers fixed, labeled and organized some of the legendary pieces, such as a $50,000 chandelier, a bullet-riddled Phoenix Brewing Co. sign and a gigantic stuffed moose head.
“The owner grew up going to auctions and flea markets,” said auctioneer Caitlin Wardlow Herrell of Ben Rogers, who owned Phoenix Hill Tavern and Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium. “There’s not a store that you go to to buy this stuff. He just kinda comes across it, and the whole time it was open, he was constantly adding to it. It’s like a museum.”
Allee Harmon, another of the auctioneers, looked fondly at a metal toy train up for sale. He spoke affectionately about a railroad lantern from the days of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. His mother was a secretary for L&N.
“She mentioned that she still gets a pension at 93, when she worked there close to 65-70 years ago,” Harmon said.
Interest in the items here has been high. Everyone, it can seem, wants to hold onto a piece of the Phoenix Hill Tavern.
“We have people who want to buy a small lamp to have a piece of Phoenix Hill,” Herrell said. “We have people who want to buy a specific set of tables and chairs because that’s where they first met.”
Other items of interest to collectors include a Steepleton pool table, a jumbo Big Boy fiberglass mascot and signed stars from various celebrities who’ve visited the venue. Those include Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler, Jessica Simpson, Reese Witherspoon, Tricia Yearwood and Miley Cyrus, among others.
“It’s bittersweet, you know, that it’s gone,” Herrell said. “But there’s a new way to keep a piece of Phoenix Hill.”