One of Louisville’s largest and loudest rock ‘n’ roll establishments is nearing the end. Phase 4 of the Phoenix Hill Tavern auction began Sunday, July 17, and will continue through Monday, July 25. More than 1,400 pieces of local history are up for bid in the nightclub’s last hurrah.
Facilitated by Wardlow Auctions, Phase 4 is the largest and has some of the most unique pieces in the auction. Along with the 67-foot main bar with brass rails, the 14-foot neon Phoenix Hill Tavern logo, stained glass and several photos and illustrations depicting Louisville at the turn of the century, the auction staff discovered a hand-painted glass sign they believe was made by Muhammad Ali’s father, C.M. Clay.
“As soon as I saw the C.M. Clay signature, it hit me,” said Wardlow staffer Jim Steinhauer in a press release. “C.M. Clay stood for Cassius Marcellus Clay, who was a local sign painter, and I knew this was something special. Now if we could just figure out in which store the sign hung, that would make it even more special.”
Wardlow Auctions owner Rick Wardlow tells Insider that while he can’t provide us with how much the auction has made so far, he is very pleased with the interest.
“Do the many unique facets of this auction, setting dollar expectations is almost impossible,” he says. “Like most auctions, some items sell wildly high, and other items sell for good deals. It just depends on the item, its functionality and condition, and the buyer’s desire. Our primary expectation was to have a successful auction where the seller and the buyer are both happy. I believe we have accomplished that.”
The most surprising aspects to this particular auction for Wardlow are the love and memories people have shared with him and his staff. He understands the memorabilia is sacred to everyone who spent time at the legendary bar.
“It’s been interesting to listen to the many locals, out-of-towners and musicians who visited or performed at Phoenix Hill as they shared some of their stories about their experiences here,” he says. “You can tell there was a lot of love for this place. While an urban renewal project may take its place, the memories will live for years to come.”
So far, the C.M. Clay sign is $70, while an original porcelain Black Cat Cigarettes sign is up to $600. There are still items without bids, including neon signs, PHT T-shirts, various holiday decorations and glassware. To peruse the full list, click here.
If you’re interested in seeing the items up for bid in person or just bid a farewell to the establishment, an open house will take place on Sunday, July 24, from 1-5 p.m.