The architect, William Strickland, also designed the Tennessee State Capitol, was inspired by the images from Egypt during the height of archeological discovery in the mids. Look for the lotus columns and a winged sun disk and if you have a chance to go inside. The painting inside the church feels like an Egyptian temple. Like most churches during the Civil War, this served as a Union hospital. You may not have expected this to be a Union hospital as Tennessee seceded and joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Tennessee was very much a divided territory — it was the last state to secede and the first state to rejoin the Union.
Nashville was the first Confederate state capital to fall to Union control as a strategic point on the river. Cross Church Street to continue up to 5th Avenue, looking for Woolworths on 5th, which will be across the street. This stretch of 5th Ave became a central shopping district after the Civil War. As a commercial district, this was the location of many of the sit-ins during the American Civil Rights movement.
After the Greensboro sit-ins, this nonviolent campaign to end racial segregation spread across the South. The idea of sit-ins at lunch counters was already discussed in Nashville before this historic event in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Many of these commercial establishments allowed anyone to shop, but not eat at their restaurants. On Saturday, February 13, , more than students would sit at lunch counters at various establishments on this street — Woolworths, Kress, McLellan, Walgreens, and Harveys. They were refused service but sat at the counter for two hours before leaving. T his would happen many more times over the next few weeks. The demonstrators never reacted to any verbal or physical taunts and the sit-ins would often end with their arrest. After the sit-ins and protests of downtown segregated merchants, meetings were held in secret between the student activists and the stores.
A controlled integration began and Nashville was the first major city in the South to desegregate. Go back to the corner of Church and 5th and turn left onto Church Street. As you cross Arcade Alley, look for the historic marker on the wall on your left. The building you see before you stands on the site of the old Maxwell House Hotel, which burned down in a fire on Christmas in , cause still unknown. The hotel construction began in , which means the original construction was completed by enslaved men.
Though the building was not completed, this became a Union hospital and prison during the Civil War. The hotel was opened to the public in , advertising steam heat, gaslighting, and a bath on every floor. There is a small alley that you crossed over to see the plaque, turn right down Arcade Alley until you get to the Arcade covered shopping area. This used to be Overton Alley until a local business was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan, Italy and convinced the shops and restaurants to create an enclosed walkway.
It was such a draw for local residents that when it opened in more than a quarter of the city population showed up. When you exit the covered area be sure to turn around and look at the columned entryway. Turn right for just a few steps.
We will eventually cross 4th Street at this crosswalk but for now, look at the historic Victorian building across the street. At the time of writing, it still has the Southern Turf sign but the building has been sold to a new owner to become a Frank Sinatra themed bar.
If you were a woman of any decency, you would not be caught even walking down this street at the turn of the 20th-century. It was full of saloons, barbershops, suit sellers and gambling and its reputation so known that the Maxwell House Hotel had a separate Ladies Entrance on the other side of the building. The building across the street, the Southern Turf, was one of the finer establishments, feeding off the high-class clientele of the hotel across the street.
It had mahogany furniture and bronze statues, and even electric fans. A few doors down, the Utopia was a 6 story building with an elevator that ran all night. The Climax Saloon had an upper floor for prostitution that had false walls where working girls could hide if there were a police raid -which there were not too many of.
Lax enforcement allowed this area to thrive. In its heyday, the local whiskey distilleries supplied the saloons — including Jack Daniels who could be seen walking around from bar to bar buying rounds of his whiskey for the patrons. The businesses maintained opulent appearances, clean streets with no obvious acts of impropriety. But even nice-looking and well-behaved drunks are still drunks and as the temperance movement swept the nation, Tennessee enacted Prohibition in closing all the saloons.
Cross 4th Avenue and head down alongside Southern Turf building. This is called Bank Alley. Stop when you get to the next intersection and look to your right. Here were the offices of the newspapers and publishing houses. In there were 13 publishers and 10 printers. The last printer did not leave the ally until It was not until that venues could sell alcohol. You would find a variety of musicians playing here at the night clubs, including country musicians who wanted to jam to a little jazz after their studio sets.
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If you want to come back here at night, Bourbon Street Blues is the best blues bar in town. It had exotic dancers. It had live music. The checkered stage you would see if you went inside today is the original. Tim McGraw started out here after Skull loaned him some money and brought some people from the industry to see him play.
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It feels like a speakeasy even today. After he was murdered in , the Rainbow Room closed not to be reopened again until If you can visit, you should. Turn left on Church Street.
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The first people in this area were Native Americans, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee and later French fur traders. Robertson and the settlers who arrived in called it the Bluff Station but records refer to it as Fort Nashborough, after Francis Nash. He was a North Carolina politician and Revolutionary War general who died in battle. It was officially designated as the town of Nashville in and was part of the state of North Carolina.
It became the state capital of the newly admitted state of Tennessee in As was common back then, the capital of a state moved occasionally — Knoxville, Murfreesboro had been capitals as well. Nashville became the official permanent state capital in What you see here is a recreation of the original wooden stockade. Feel free to walk around and have a look at the buildings and historical markers.
With the river to your left, walk along 1st Ave North. Stop when you get to Broadway. The building on the corner will say Hard Rock Cafe but peek around the corner for a look at what it used to be. There is a great mural on the side of the building. Turn on Broadway and stop at the corner of 2nd Street. This red brick building is still technically part of the Hard Rock Cafe today. This Victorian building used to be the Silver Dollar Saloon. Like many of the drinking establishments, this one was run by a whiskey distillery, George A. Dickel Whisky Company, as a way to serve their product to the masses.
The Honky Tonks along Broadway today often have people outside, encouraging you to come on in. This would have been the case back then as well. If you had an eyeglass you would be able to see the clock on top of Union Station now a hotel all the way from the waterfront. The saloons here would send runners up to the train station to see what the timetables were like and then come back as the boats were unloading. Cross Broadway. You can choose how far to walk along but we suggest going about halfway to find an overlook on the left for that great view of the Nashville skyline.
Looking across the river to your right, that is the Nissan Stadium, where the Tennessee Titans play. Looking to the left is the skyline of Nashville. Notice the tallest building — we call this the Batman Building. For obvious reasons.
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