There are a lot of caves in Rutherford County, but none has the air of romance and legend that Black Cat Cave offers.

The planning commissioners Wednesday approved transferring 2.4 acres around the cave, along Memorial Boulevard, from the city to MTSU, for protection and study of the site.

Already MTSU has placed bars around the entrance to the cave to keep out vandals and graffiti writers who have been active there for years.

Cave was an Indian burial ground and later a speakeasy

Dr. Shannon Hodge, assistant professor of archaeology at MTSU, told the commission that carbon dating has shown some artifacts found in the cave soil are between 5,000 and 7,500 years old. MSU students have been screening the soil for artifacts.

MTSU students by hole vandals dug in BlackCat cave
MTSU students by hole vandals dug in Black Cat cave

The cave has quite a history. Dr. Hodge said southerners hid horses from northern soldiers in the cave during the Civil War. During the Prohibition Era, she said, the cave was a speakeasy. That may be where the name “black cat” came from. Once liquor sales were made legal, the cave became a scene for parties and square dancing. It had a store front built over the entrance and a wooden dance floor and fireplace or stove inside.

There is not a lot of evidence of the cave as a speakeasy past other than peoples’ memories. Dr. Hodge said a hook in the roof of the cave may have held a chandelier over the dance floor.

Cave has been neglected for years

The city acquired the cave from the federal government on the understanding it would be used as a park. But the area was neglected for years. Dr. Hodge said plans for the cave are up in the air. While the thought of opening it up to the public is enticing, she added, the primary aim is to respect the sacred Indian burial ground.

In other business the commissioners:

— Set an Oct. 7th public hearing date for a rezoning of 3.4 acres along Lytle Sreet in the old city district from a general office and commercial highway zone to planned institutional district. The change is needed so the county’s proposal to erect a new judicial building and parking garage on the site can move forward. The existing zoning does not allow a building as high as the county plans.

— Approved a site plan for a new Kroger grocery store and fuel center along Mercury and Middle Tennessee Boulevards. The 92,241 square foot store will occupy the center portion of the existing Mercury Plaza strip mall. While structures on the left and right will remain, the center of the mall will be demolished to make way for the new store. A feature of the store will be a “ClickList”, which enables residents to order groceries on line. Their orders will be stored in a special room at the store until the customers arrive to pick them up.

— Accepted a site plan for a 1219,407 square foot warehouse and cold storage development across Joe B. Jackson Parkway from the Subway restaurant and slightly to the east. The developers of this project were also involved with the Interstate Warehouse development on Joe B. Jackson now. This new project will serve a restaurant chain which has an option to pu a restaurant on a corner of the parcel along Joe B. Jackson.