WSM became the first commercial FM radio station to broadcast in the United States when it debuted in 1925, broadcasting from the fifth floor of the National Life building at 7th Avenue and Union Street. Today, the station operates a small studio inside the Opryland Resort. Edwin Craig, an employee of National Life and Accident Insurance Company, created WSM to capitalize on radio’s potential for advertising. He dubbed the station “WSM” to reflect the company motto “We Shield Millions.” Indeed, the radio station provided the opportunity for advertising, community service, and augmentation of company identity. The station far exceeded Craig’s expectations, fueling an expansion to a larger venue and providing the origins for the Grand Old Opry.
The Nashville Arcade was constructed from 1902-1903 in what was then Overton Alley by businessman Daniel C. Buntin, who was inspired by the Italian Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II Arcade in Milan. The Arcade, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by local firm Thompson, Gibel, and Asmus. In addition to its architectural significance and centrality to the history of downtown Nashville, the Arcade is also significant for its connection to the Nashville sit-ins and the history of civil rights. The Arcade was the meeting place for university students who protested nearby segregated establishments on February 13, 1960. Today, the Arcade is still home to many retail shops, as well as restaurants, offices, and art galleries. Two organizations of artists and supporters of art are based here: Art at the Arcade and The Coop. The Arcade also participates in Nashville's First Saturday Art Crawl.
Nashville Sit-Ins at Harveys Department Store (1959-1960)
On November 28, 1959, a small group of African American students under the leadership of James Lawson and the Nashville Christian Leadership Council (NCLC) entered Harveys Department Store which was located here from 1942 to 1984. The students requested service at the store's lunch counter, the NCLC's first test of a non-violent direct action tactic to challenge the longstanding practice of racial discrimination at Nashville lunch counters. Although denied service, the students reported that they did not receive any threats and they left the store quietly to continue planning small-scale actions that would help them test public sentiment and potential challenges they might face as they planned a sustained campaign of sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters that began the following February. On February 13, 1960, larger groups of African American students were refused service at the S.H. Kress Department Store, Woolworths, and McClellan's after they occupied the lunch counters for two hours until the owners of the shops closed for business for the day. The sit-ins spread to seven additional segregated shops and disrupted business downtown until May 10, 1960. On that day, NCLC leaders agreed to end the demonstrations at Harveys and five other stores after management agreed to serve all people regardless of their race. The successful sit-ins of Nashville coincided with the sit-ins in Greensboro and other Border South cities that helped to end segregation throughout the region.
Savage House (Standard Restaurant & Club at the Smith House)
The Savage House, also known as the Smith House, is a historic three-story townhouse that was built in downtown Nashville circa 1840. The building is the last surviving example of the Italianate townhouses that flourished in Nashville during the 19th century, and one of only two pre-Civil War buildings remaining in downtown Nashville. The exact date of the home's construction is unknown but records suggest that the home was completed in the 1840s. Over the past two centuries, the house has variously served as a rooming house, the headquarters of a Jewish social club, and the residence and office of a distinguished ophthalmologist, Dr. Giles Christopher Savage and his daughter who took over the practice. In January 1983, it was entered in the National Register of Historic Places. The building is currently home to the Standard Restaurant & Club.
Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral parish of the Episcopal Archdiocese of Tennessee. The structure, designed by noted architect Francis Hatch Kimball, was built between 1889 and 1894 and, according to its National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nomination form, "is considered the finest example of Victorian Gothic architecture in Nashville." It is particularly noted for its sanctuary, which "has a distinctive early English atmosphere." It was entered in the NRHP in November 1978.
Union Station Hotel
Built between 1898 and 1900, Nashville, Tennessee’s Union Station is one of the city's unique and inspired historic architectural landmarks. The imposing terminal and office building was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival-style by Richard Montfort, then Chief Engineer of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Reaching its peak during World War II, when many soldiers were transferred to and from Nashville, the station declined and was closed in 1979. That year, when the station building was acquired by the General Services Administration for use as a federal office building. In the 1980s, investors came forward to restore the space and convert it into a luxury hotel. After evaluating the cost of a major rehabilitation project, the property was conveyed to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County in 1985 through the Historic Surplus Property Program. In the following years, Union Station was rehabilitated into a hotel and restaurant. The building continues to be run as a hotel to the present day, with many of its unique architectural features, including the 65-foot, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling, gold-leaf medallions and original Luminous Prism stained glass, still intact.
Nashville Customs House
This beautiful Gothic Revival building was constructed beginning in 1875 and originally called the Customs House, Courthouse, Post Office Building. Other sections were added on in the coming decades. The building was proposed in 1856 but the Civil War and the post-war Reconstruction period prevented its construction. When it was built, it was seen as a symbol for the end of Reconstruction, as funding for it came from the federal government. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who appointed a Southerner to his cabinet, was in attendance at the laying of the cornerstone ceremony. Today, the building is now the location of a private firm that leases out office space. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
"Mass Meeting" Against Women's Suffrage at Ryman Auditorium, August 19, 1920
On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed – by one vote – a motion to ratify the 19th Amendment, a federal measure that extended suffrage to all American citizens regardless of gender. With that vote and the support of the governor, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. With support for the Amendment being fairly limited in other Southern states, Tennessee's action was both symbolic and historically significant--it meant that the 19th Amendment had been ratified by three-fourths of the states--the requirement set forth in Article V of the Constitution prior to the adoption of any Constitutional Amendment.
In response, some of the opponents of women’s suffrage, known then as “Antis,” held a protest meeting that saw the extension of suffrage by federal action through the lens of state's rights. On the day following the vote, August 19th, the “Antis” held an historic mass rally at the Ryman Auditorium – later famous as the home of the Grand Ole Opry – to protest the result and try somehow to overturn it. Speakers appealed to notions of patriarchy and "traditional" gender roles, as well as playing to anger against the perception that women's suffrage would erode the power of Southern whites. One pro-suffrage newspaper gleefully reported that the meeting failed to attract an audience, while the leading paper of the Antis reported a "monster" crowd in attendance. Well-attended or not, this rear-guard action failed, as Governor A.H. Roberts supported the decision of a majority of state legislators and added his signature to the bill.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which first opened on September 9, 2006, and was named for the late Kenneth Schermerhorn, is home to the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony, which was founded in 1946 and which Schermerhorn led for 22 years. Located in downtown Nashville, across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Center was constructed at a cost of $123.5 million and totals 197,000 square feet in area. It is Nashville’s premier classical music venue, though jazz and pop music events of many kinds also take place there. Its main venue is the 30,000-square-foot Laura Turner Concert Hall, which features 1,844 seats over three levels and is one of the few American concert halls which extensively employs natural lighting. Despite its relatively recent history, it has already had to withstand two major crises. In May 2010, a devastating flood hit Nashville, causing extensive damage to the center, which cost millions in repairs. In addition, in 2013 the organization faced a debt crisis in which the property was threatened with foreclosure, and a public auction was scheduled. Fortunately, due to the last minute intervention of a patron, a settlement was reached in which the center’s debt was greatly reduced, and the auction was canceled.