The Sea Witch

William Wayne Weems

2023 by William Wayne Weems

Photo of Lock Two, courtesy of the author.
Photo of Lock Two, courtesy of the author..  

“The Sea Witch” burned down in the mid-1970s. (My guess: 1976). Last I looked, its stone chimney was still standing. A brief history as I remember it:

Some 160 years ago The US Army Corps of Engineers began constructing a series of “flow over” dams to keep the Cumberland River navigable by commercial vessels during low water periods. Each ultimately had its own water navigation lock….the one off Pennington Bend Road was called “Lock Two”. (That dam and lock were blown up in 1962, leaving the old lock operator’s house as the centerpiece of a Metro Nashville Park).

But in the early years of the Twentieth Century “Lock Two” served as a barrier to water recreation. Pleasure boats didn’t want to go Westward on the Cumberland admist the sewage and stinky drained “Sulphur Water” of Nashville, so they went East …. Until they reached Lock Two. Going further upstream meant the expense and delay of “locking” twice, so a recreational  complex was developed just downstream from the lock to attract and amuse boaters. It was called “Wooddale Beach”.  Its clubhouse, over many iterations and rebuildings, became “The Sea Witch”.

It was the repeated floods that necessitated the several rebuildings of the clubhouse and witnessed the destruction of the other “Wooddale Beach” facilities. The CCC and WPA were even employed to dig post-flood drainage ditches off the central fields of the Pennington Bend.  Another drainage ditch was dug by the WPA/CCC from the fields to the Cumberland River. This ditch passes under Pennington Bend Road, and is visible today. Locals once called it "the Slew". Claude T. Pearce built a primitive log cabin type vacation home along the banks of the Cumberland River on Pennington Bend Road.  Two of the wooden staircases he built down to docks for his slick Chris-Craft boats were washed away by floods and the interior of his cabin was furnished by period outdoor furniture that could be lifted to the ceiling when floods were coming. My own father moved to Pennington Bend Road after the Corps of Engineers proclaimed the 1971 completion of the Percy Priest Dam would mean the end of flooding in “the Bend”.  He, The new Opry House, Opryland, and the later Opry Mills mall were to be severely disappointed.

At the time of my Father’s move “The Sea Witch” was run as a road house with dancing and live music. He often complained of the drunken drivers leaving that facility tearing up his mailbox and other things in his front yard. He put up heavy obstacles to keep them off, a goal I later achieved with plastic reflectors. Small wonder those who remember oppose the recreation of “The Sea Witch”.

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