Two polar bears at the corner of 12th Avenue South and Edgehill Ave in Nashville have been engaged in a roaming snowball fight for 90 years. Due to their conspicuous presence on this street for so many decades, they have now become a modern symbol of the Edgehill community.
But why are there polar bears in Nashville? In short, they are an endearing part of the local history. The creations were commissioned as advertisements for a frozen custard shop in 1930 and produced by a local ornament company on 4th Avenue. Two polar bears were placed at a shop on the West End near Centennial Park and a pair of siblings went up at another custard shop on Gallatin Road. Despite their unusual ursine statues, both shops struggled through the ’30s and eventually closed. But the bear trail had just begun.
In the 1940s, local Reverend Zema Hill brought two of the bears to his front yard at 1408 Edgehill Ave. The other two he placed at his funeral home at 1306 South Street where they remained until the business was sold in 1952. This polar pair then made their way over to the Germantown area.
The Edgehill bears’ 60-year residence at the old reverend’s home came to an end after the turn of the century. Listed for sale, the bears did not travel very far this time; their current home is a special-made Polar Bear Plaza just up the street, where they are seen by thousands of passersby each day. When several groups working together wanted a logo to identify the neighborhood, they chose a two-tone image of a bear throwing a snowball. This idea was so popular that the first day one of the signs went up it was stolen before the concrete base even dried.