A history lover’s guide to Nashville
More than 200 years ago, back in the late 1700s, Nashville first became a settlement. When it was first settled, it was called Nashborough, and years later became Nashville.
The capital city of Tennessee has undergone several changes over the last couple of hundred years and has earned itself two prominent nicknames in the process – “Athens of the South” and “Music City.” With all that’s come and gone and the major growth that’s taken place in various industries in Nashville, it’s no wonder this charming city appeals to history lovers. It’s a place filled with historical buildings and stories that people from around the world continue to appreciate when they visit.
So the next time you take a trip to Nashville, be sure to allow plenty of time to see, learn about and enjoy the rich history of this spellbinding Southern city.
The Parthenon is located in Nashville’s popular outdoor playground, Centennial Park. Built in 1897, it’s the only full-size replica of the ancient Greek temple in the world. The Parthenon was originally built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897, and it was rebuilt in 1929 and being deemed unsafe. Anyone can visit the park around The Parthenon during regular park hours, but the museum has its own operating hours and entrance fee. Inside you will find the city’s permanent art collection, a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena, a gift shop, and visitors center.
Hatch Show Print
In operation since 1879, Hatch Show Print designs and prints unique posters to showcase the history of music through graphic design. The historic letterpress shop is known for its iconic vault of concert posters from Elvis Presley to Duke Ellington and Moby to Loretta Lynn. Located inside the Country Music Hall of Fame, you can watch the shop in action through a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass. Hatch Show Print also offers individual and private group tours where you can print your own commemorative poster.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen
For more than 30 years, Arnold’s Country Kitchen has been serving lunch crowds some of the city’s best Southern food, or “meat-and-3”. The Gulch neighborhood dive is easy to find with his bright red and yellow building beckoning locals and travelers to try its fried chicken, mac and cheese or legendary banana pudding. In 2009, the restaurant was awarded a prestigious James Beard American Classics Award and recently placed on the super-duper, mega guide to eating out in Nashville.
There are two things about Belmont Mansion that make it such a prominent historical attraction — it’s the biggest house museum in all of Tennessee and it’s one of the few homes from the 19th century that has its history revolving around a woman. Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham was one of the wealthiest women during the Civil War. She was worth about $1 million when she was only 29 and widowed. She remarried, and she and her husband built Belmont Mansion in 1853. The Italian-villa style mansion was beautiful inside and out, and even included a zoo, which Adelicia opened to the people of Nashville to enjoy since a public zoo didn’t exist at the time. Take a tour of this large, stunning house museum while learning about the life and legacy of its well-to-do mistress.
4580 Rachels Lane, Hermitage TN
President Andrew Jackson built The Hermitage for his wife, Rachel. It was first a brick house that had 8 bedrooms and 2 wide center hallways. While Andrew was president, his mansion underwent a major makeover that added adjoining one-story wings, a two-story front portico and a smaller portico at the back of the house. In 1834, the mansion was damaged by a fire and was rebuilt by 2 of Andrew’s friends. After their transformation, The Hermitage became Tennessee’s most fashionable home. The grounds and a lush garden — where President Jackson and his wife are buried — surround the mansion. Since opening as a museum in 1889, more than 16 million people have come from around the world to visit The Hermitage, deemed the “home of the people’s president.”
Belle Meade Plantation
The land referred to as Belle Meade has been a part of Nashville history since the early 1800s when John Harding first purchased 200 acres of land. Harding first had a farm, and then a cotton gin, gristmill and saw mill were built. Some years later, Belle Meade Plantation became the thoroughbred horse farm of the 19th century. At one point, Belle Meade grew to more than 3,000 acres and had more than 100 enslaved people who worked for the Harding family. Today you can tour the plantation and be taken through the gorgeous Greek-Revival mansion, horse stable, gardens, carriage house and more, and then you end your tour at the winery with a free wine tasting.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
No genre of music is more prevalent in Music City than country music, which is why it’s home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Here you’ll find a massive, state-of-the-art collection that shows and tells the history of country music through the years. The Frist Library and Archive has more than 40 years of country music books, songbooks, sheet music, videos and films, photographs, sound recordings and more providing the sights and sounds into this popular genre of music. Come enjoy its many musical exhibits or even catch a live performance. We promise it’ll be a toe-tapping good time.
Historic RCA Studio B
While you’re at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, make sure you also plan to take a tour of the Historic RCA Studio B. Tours to this studio — home of 10,000 hits — depart every hour from the museum between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This popular cultural site was once the recording studio of music greats, like Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. RCA Studio B helped launch Nashville as an international recording studio, so if you’re into music history, this is a must stop during your stay in Nashville.
The Ryman Auditorium claims to be “historically cool since 1892.” And we can corroborate that it’s a true statement. The first public event was held in 1890, but the Ryman Auditorium wasn’t completed until 1892. A lecture by Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy was the first sold-out event at the Ryman Auditorium, and several others have performed here over the years, including Harry Houdini and Louis Armstrong. The Grand Ole Opry moved here in 1943, and the Johnny Cash Show was also filmed here. Today you can take a tour of the historic Ryman Auditorium, a self-guided or backstage tour, or you can attend one of its entertaining events.