The Ball & Chain bar and nightspot and the building it occupies offers a history as colorful and as fascinating as any structure on that portion of Calle Ocho, an area increasingly considered to be the center of Little Havana.
Before there was a Calle Ocho, and even a Tamiami Trail, the mid-1900s name for Southwest Eighth Street, there was a dirt road, corresponding to this right of way, over which carriages and motor vehicles brought produce, including citrus, from west of today’s Ball & Chain location to downtown Miami for sale and shipment. The Tamiami Trail, or the Trail, as it was commonly known, separated Riverside, the early 20th century neighborhood north of it from the ‘twenties boom-era development to the south, known as Shenandoah. The Trail was also important because it represented the southern terminus of a national road, Highway 41, which began in the Midwest; in the era preceding superhighways, Highway 41 was a major entry route, via the Everglades, into Miami.
Not till the fledgling Shenandoah neighborhood experienced its transformation from farmland and undeveloped areas did the blocks bracketing the street between Southwest Twelfth Avenue and points west began to rise as a retail district. By then, Southwest Eighth Street was paved and was lined with commercial businesses, a movie theater, churches, and eateries in a neighborhood offering an intriguing demographic mix: a growing Jewish population standing side by side with a Deep South constituency.