For more than a decade, the Painted Ladies of Patrick Sullivan’s flirted with male customers at the corner of Jackson and Central in Knoxville’s Old City. They were painted on the windows of the saloon’s second floor, each adorned with the accoutrements of an 19th century call-girl. Their presence was an artistic wink at the bar’s raucous past, one that includes rumors that it once operated as a brothel.
The bar closed down in 2011.
When local entrepreneur Randy Boyd bought the building last year to create his own establishment there, he found the windows had deteriorated and needed to be replaced. So he removed the ladies and donated them to Knox Heritage. The local preservation group plans to auction off the series of windows as a fundraiser.
There are six ladies in all. Each lady spans three windows—a head, a mid-section and a skirt.
Patrick Sullivan came to Knoxville from County Kerry, Ireland. He established his centerpiece saloon at the corner of Jackson and Central in 1888. Legend tells of several famous (and infamous) characters who have imbibed there, including Buffalo Bill Cody and members of Butch Cassidy’s gang. It was also believed to be haunted, with bartenders and hostesses reporting strange noises and slamming doors.
After the city banned saloons in 1907, the building served many purposes, including an ice cream shop and reportedly, a bordello.