Nashville for the History Buff
by the opry.com Q & A Lady
I love music. I love history. I love music history. Nashville definitely has something for every history buff out there. Not surprisingly, there is also music history at every Nashville turn. What really makes Nashville special to me is that even what folks would think of as “non-musical” historic sites are often deeply intertwined with the music that has made Nashville famous around the world. President Andrew Jacksons’s home known as the Hermitage, for instance, has a guitar-shaped driveway. Just across Gallatin Road from the Nashville National Cemetery where more than 15,000 Civil War soldiers are buried are the final resting places of country luminaries including Hank Snow, Keith Whitley, and the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, among many others.
When you discover Nashville was founded as a fort in 1779, you know the city has enough history to occupy a weekend or even week-long visit. It was home to two U.S. presidents (Jackson and James K. Polk) is the current home of Vice President Al Gore, who came as close to becoming President without actually being sworn in as anyone this ole gal will ever meet ever met. Our Convention and Visitors Bureau calls Nashville “the quintessential antebellum Southern city,” and I’m not about to argue the point. Music City offers a vivid portrait of a bygone era, featuring graceful architecture, opulent mansions, a rich riverfront merchant district, and more.
Of course Nashville is second-to-none when it comes to country music history, and important happenings in the stories of other kinds of music, for that matter. It’s in Music City that you can sit down in historic Studio B and tickle the ivories on the piano Elvis played to get in a musical groove before recording smashes such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “Blue Christmas.” Nashville is the place where you can stand in the balcony of the historic Ryman Auditorium and be transported back to the evening in that building when Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Earl Scruggs took the stage together for the first time and bluegrass music was born. And only in Nashville, my friends, can you cross the street from the Ryman and see the very mandolin Monroe played back then up close and personal.
What history! What music history! What a town!
Some historic notes I recommend you hit during your visit:
Tennessee State Capitol
The Hermitage: Lovely home of one of the most interesting figures in American history
Belle Meade Plantation: it is much, more than the spot where rotund President William Howard Taft got lodged in a bathtub. Much more.
Downtown Franklin, Tennessee: a 30-minutedrive from the Grand Ole Opry House
Carnton Plantation: From the home to the battlefield to the cemetery, you will come to know one of the greatest stories of the Civil War.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: among its thousands of displayed items is the Bill Monroe mandolin mentioned above.
Ryman Auditorium: Charlie Chaplin, Katherine Hepburn, John Phillip Sousa, and Teddy Roosevelt have all taken the stage here. Johnny Cash met June Carter here. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, and other icons made their Opry debuts here. The first CMA Awards television show emanated from here. Historic? I should say so.
Tennessee State Museum
Fort Nashborough: A reconstruction of Nashville’s oldest settlement
Fort Negley: Steps away from the home of the Nashville Sounds is this Civil War facility built to protect Nashville following Union occupation.
The Parthenon: is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. (Note: spend time here during the day, but be sure to see it lit after dark, as well.)
Grand Ole Opry: the Opry is a living, breathing, vibrant show featuring contemporary artists, but there’s also a lot of history to be seen and heard during a live performance of what has become the world’s longest-running radio show and an entertainment icon. (Learn more about the Opry’s story with a backstage tour during the day or, if available on the evening you attend, a post-show tour.)
More information about some of these attractions as well as valuable offers can be found at our Attractions & Accomodations page.