Nashville is a city that knows itself inside-out and wears its culture like a perfect pair of broken-in leather boots. That confidence fuels an eclectic mix of classic heritage hotels holding their own amongst newbies repurposing treasured city buildings. Here’s a look at how these landmarks of Southern hospitality are re-writing the stories of Nashville.
Things have changed a bit since the days when horse-drawn buggies pulled up to the Gray & Dudley hardware building in downtown Nashville. A landmark of the city since 1900, the store peddled everything from tools to razors, clocks, ice skates, pocket knives and horse saddles.
A sales flyer in its opening year gave a shout out to hunting season:
“Here’s to all you shooters, who are going to shoot, the season’s here, the dogs are waiting … there’s not a dishonest gun in our stock and not a poorly loaded shell.”
Fast forward to the year 2017, and the same building opened as one
of the largest multi-venue modern art museums in the world – which also happens
to be a hotel. Guests literally sleep amongst dozens of startlingly provocative
art installations spread across 10,500 square feet, multiple levels, tucked
into nooks and crannies, hanging from the ceilings, and incorporated into
interactive multimedia rooms.
The museum is open to the public 24 hours a day with no entry fee, so grab a glass of wine in the Gray & Dudley restaurant bar and stroll the exhibits. Or just stay over – even the room décor is a work of art, including three custom-designed artist suites. The restaurant features the Spanish Feral Meat Goats installation by Beth Cavener Stichter, a somewhat-disturbing collection of goat sculptures with human-like emotions and movements.
Read reviews about the 21c Art Museum Hotel in Nashville on TripAdvisor.
The concept of “design” is clad with letterpress and banker’s chairs inside Hotel Indigo, a throwback to the building’s roots as a stately bank in the early 1900s. The printer-themed lobby reflects its location near Printer’s Alley, once home to Hatch Show Print and dozens of publishing houses, newspapers and printing presses in the late 1800s. The hotel’s library blends into the speakeasy-inspired lounge area, another nod to Printer’s Alley for its secret “mixing bars” and bordellos during the Prohibition years of the 1920s.
leather chairs with nailhead trim make you feel like lighting up a cigar and
reviewing your stock portfolio, while decoupaged letterpress bottles signed by
local musicians remind you that the storied hotels of Nashville will always be
a curious mix of prestige and infamy. The practice of signing bottles harkens
back to the brown-bagging days when speakeasy patrons brought their own bottles
and signed their names on the bags before placing them in hidden lockers. Every
evening, live music filters through the lobby, lounge and library.
Surviving the Great Depression and flourishing during World War II, the original Noel Place hotel knows a thing or two about Nashville. Opening just after the stock market crash of 1929, this elegant harbor of hospitality still knows how to read its clientele and find its niche in the midst of change. With notorious Printer’s Alley in back and the Gentleman’s Quarter streaming along its entrance on Fourth Avenue, what is now known as Noelle Hotel retained its gentile Southern charm through speakeasies, saloons, gambling parlors and the emerging music clubs.
The intrigue of Noelle lies in its ability to embrace Nashville’s new urban-hipster persona without losing its bonafides as a truly classic heritage hotel. It’s the perfect place to revel in Art Deco architecture with local Tennessee blush-pink marble walls, terrazzo floors, and a book-clad mezzanine while eavesdropping on the revolving social scene in the Trade Room lobby bar. Treasures tuck into every crevice: an onsite vintage print studio, experiential art space, rooftop Rare Bird lounge, the Makeready dining room, ultra-cool coffee bar courtesy of Mumma, and even a closeted Hidden Bar speakeasy (literally in a closet.)
It’s all about ‘retro with a twist’ inside Hutton Hotel, including the 70s mod-Scando décor and a contemporary interpretation of classic Southern vittles at WestEnd Kitchen & Bar. Its location on the West End, just steps from Music Row, plants it firmly in the “creators camp” of Nashville’s cultural scene. Performances at the onsite Analog live-music venue reflect a commitment to showcasing talent, but the creation and nurturing of that talent gets a major assist from dedicated Writers Studios within the hotel.
Designed by Studio 11 and conceptualized by Dierks Bentley and Ryan Teddar, lead singer of OneRepublic, the creative spaces are decked out with high-end equipment, isolation areas and recording capacity. Storytelling takes center stage for the “Hangin’ & Sangin” podcast with Kelly McCartney, recorded live from Hutton Hotel and featuring interviews, live recordings and insights into the makers-and-shakers of Nashville.
If it’s true that a hotel can be haunted by its own past, Nashville’s Union Station Hotel is the very incarnation of that concept. Stories swirl around the once-bustling train station that whisked millions of soldiers off the war, left grieving widows standing alone on empty platforms, and cradled the final footsteps of souls who perished in the deadliest train wreck in American history.
Since opening in 1910, Union Station literally tracks the country’s movement through world wars, the Great Migration, the glory days of rail travel, birth of the automobile, Civil Rights marches and just about every forward movement over almost 120 years. Gold-accented bas-relief angel figurines on the mezzanine level tell the stories of commerce, trade and agriculture in Tennessee through the decades.
Reinventing itself in the 1980s as a grand hotel teaming with heritage and history, it still features the spectacular Victorian Romanesque Revival architecture, 65-foot vaulted ceilings, luminous stained glass, marble floors and limestone fireplaces.
Read our feature article to learn the full story about the historic Union Station hotel in Nashville.
The undisputed Queen of Hospitality and oldest continually operating hotel in Nashville, the Hermitage cradles more stories than you can imagine within its lobby alone. Opening in the year 1900, the Hermitage stills drips with graceful elegance peppered by torrid tales, passionate politics and a never-ending flow of celebrities, music stars, presidents and sports icons. It’s been the headquarters for the Suffrage Movement giving women the right to vote, a set location for Hollywood films and music videos, and home to the Nashville Symphony – and that’s just a sliver of the stories slicing through this Beau-Arts architectural treasure.
Nashville roots dig deep at the Hermitage, literally. The hotel plants, nurtures, and harvests produce from an heirloom period garden at the historic Glen Leven Farm, about 10 minutes away, in partnership with the Land Trust for Tennessee. The hotel’s Capital Grill has been farm-to-table long before the trendy term existed; it’s just one more nod to the timeless traditions still at play beneath the shimmering chandeliers and storied glass skylights of the Hermitage Hotel.
Read our feature article to learn the full story about the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville.