Nashville: "Middle" Tennessee's bright star!
..and the city has a TWO (eh.. maybe one and a half) Delaware connections as well, but more on that below..
One of the interesting facts I learned while traveling through Tennessee is that its ninety-five counties are divided into three distinct and separate economic and political regions. The eastern third of the state is officially referred to as Eastern Tennessee, then there is the Middle and the Western. These regions are represented on their flag by three prominent stars.
Of course this had absolutely no impact on our travels through the state, but what did impact us was the beauty and diversity of Tennessee's capital city.
Located in northern "Middle" Tennessee, the city is too far north to be fully "southern", and too far south to be considered "northern". This uniqueness gives it has a flavor and flare all its own. It's an eclectic mix of the past and the present.
And now a little history: Founded in 1779, the city is named after Francis Nash, a brigadier-general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Named in his honor, the city grew quickly due to its strategic location as a port and railroad center. Nashville seceded with Tennessee during the American Civil War and in 1862 became the first state capital to fall to Union troops.
And now, back to our travels: Parking at the Tennessee Titan's football stadium (for free!), it was a leisurely stroll along
the Cumberland River to the beautiful JohnSeigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
The refurbished railroad crossing, is truly a unique structure.
Not only does it provide a scenic pathway across the river, used by bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers and photographers, but it also vibrates with the unique sound of the river it spans.
Speakers aligned along the bridge, play the musical creation of artist, Aaron Doenges. He took the data from the flow of the river and translated it into music.
The bridge also provided our first glimpse of the beautiful city.
And what a beautiful city it is.
And the city is booming. One tour guide told us the city has a 2% unemployment rate (if you're looking for work, this is the place to move!).
The second thing we noticed was the influence that music has had on the city (or the city had on the music). After passing the Johnny Cash Museum, and the famed Ryman Auditorium (best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 ), we made our way to Honky-Tonk Highway.
For those that don't know, a "honky tonk" is defined an establishment that contains at least "One rockin' stage, Cold beverages, and a Party that lasts all day, everyday"! And along Lower Broadway is a row of these colorful establishments pumping live music into the streets from 10am to 3am. And one of the best parts is, there are no cover charges (the musicians play for tips). As we moved from one honky tonk to another, we heard a string of incredibly talented musicians.
The variety spans the spectrum of Blues, Country, Rock, Blue-grass and good old Rock and Roll. We learned that many of these musicians play backup for the big name stars and in their off-time, come down to Broadway. It's the way many musicians, such as Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, supported themselves before making it into the big leagues!
(not what you think. And, I'm not going to say whether or not I was disappointed). Below is the interior of Nudies Honky Tonk (named after Nudie Cohen a deceased country music tailor who designed glittering rhinestone-covered suits and jackets, and outrageous customized cars. One of which hangs from the wall). At over 100 feet in length, this is home to the longest bartop in Nashville.
(not my picture)
One of Nudies customized cars hangs from the wall:
Many of these groups don't have names because the members rotate out as duty calls but this group of musicians were really, really good!
We stayed at the Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, just north of the city. It was a nice park that offered nightly music by local (very local) musicians. The only downside to the park was that it was right next to a set of railroad tracks. "You rarely hear the train," the park manager told us, but we proved them wrong! Trains would pass all hours of the night and, of course, blow their air-horns for no particular reason other than to really piss us off. We found that running our bedroom a/c unit, plus using a noise machine and running an air purifier, greatly deadened the train noises. Of course, our bedroom now sounds like you're standing inside a jet engine, but it was better than giving joy to some maniacal train engineer who derives a great deal of pleasure from waking innocent folks in the dead of night!
One surprise we had at the park was meeting another couple from Delaware! Terry and Betty (and Snoop Dog) live in the "slower-lower" town of Seaford. They were wonderful people with a great sense of humor. We enjoyed spending time with them and swapping travel (and family) stories.
OTHER NASHVILLE ACTIVITES:
We took a city tour:
Once we settled in, we signed up to get a personal tour of the city from Tony Cochran. He came highly recommended by
the camp staff. He spent 25 years with the Nashville Police Department and after retiring, began providing security for major stars of the music, television and movie industry.
He had stories on every musician that came through town, ranging from Elvis Presley to Taylor Swift. He had a story for almost every street corner we passed. He took us to the homes of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Garth Brookes, and David "Stringbean" Akeman of Hee Haw fame (he also told us about his murder).
He also pulled up to the curb of Hermitage Hotel and told me to "check out the men's room".
Rather puzzled as to whether this was a pick-up line or something of historical significance, we relectantly walked into the lobby and asked to be directed to the men's room. The employee walked into the lower level of the hotel and towards a dark corner. After leaving us at the door marked "MENS", he turned and left. That's when we saw this interesting sign:
And this is what the inside looks like (woman are encouraged to enter, but at their own risk):
Built in 1910, the hotel boasts an art deco-styled men’s restroom. The lush bathroom is walled in gleaming lime-green and black leaded glass tiles, has lime-green fixtures, terrazzo flooring, and features a two-seat shoeshine station. So if you like to flush with fashion, move this hotel to the "head" of your bucket (or chamber-pot) list!
Next, Tony drove us through an average looking neighborhood and stopped at this red, clapboard-clad, two story unimpressive home:
As it turns out, back in 1876, outlaw Jesse James and his brother Frank lived here. They moved here just after the bloody Northfield Bank robbery in Minnesota (where they were almost killed). Here they created the facade of respectable citizens. Jesse went by the alias of John Davis. Frank went by the name Ben J. Woodson. They lived here peafully for about five years until one of their gang members started shooting his mouth off about their exploits and was quickly arrested. Frank and Jesse left town the very next day!
One funny personal story Tony shared with us came from the time when he was on the police force many years ago. Very late one night, he received a call over his police radio about an officer needing assistance at an automobile showroom. When he arrived on the scene, he found the giant lobby window shot out and the officer who made the distress call, standing with his gun drawn overtop a cardboard cut out of a person that he had mistaken for an intruder! Needless to say, that officer never heard the end of it!
We visited the Tennessee State Capitol Building:
Designed by the famed architect William Strictland (Strickland helped establish the Greek Revival movement in the United States), the cornerstone of the building was laid on July 4, 1845. Strictland died during the construction and, at his request, is interred under the building.
The capitol is one of the oldest state capitols buildings still in use today and one of only twelve state capitol buildings that does not have a dome! When Union forces occupied the city during the Civil War, the building was renamed Fort Andrew Johnson.
Here are a few shots of the interior:
A view from the back veranda:
Interesting Delaware connection #1:
Architect William Strictland also designed the first man-made harbor and breakwater structure in the Western hemisphere. Anybody recognize this?
This is the (outer) Delaware Breakwater Harbor in Lewes, Delaware. Originally built in 1828, it was designed to encourage shipping in the Delaware river by providing a safe harbor for ships during severe weather. At the time, it was one of only three breakwaters in the entire world!
In the heart of the city is Centennial Park, home to a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens.
Back in the mid-1800's, Nashville earned the moniker of "Athens of the South". This came about because of the number of institutions of higher learning found within the city (including the South's first public school system). When the time came for the city to celebrate its Centennial, it seemed only logical to commemorate it by building an exact replica of the Parthenon found in ancient Athens. So, in 1897 the city unveiled the beautiful structure (it has since been rebuilt with more durable materials).
Inside you'll find a re-creation of the 42-foot statue of Athena just as (they speculate) it looked in ancient Greece.
The Parthenon also serves as Nashville's art museum. The focus of the Parthenon's permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.
We walked the grounds of the Grand Ole Opry:
What began as a local, one-hour radio "barn dance" in 1925 quickly grew in popularity. It was the "Show that made Country Music famous". The show moved to the Ryman Auditorium and later onto its current location. Although we didn't attend a show, no visit to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the heartbeat of country music.
And on the grounds of the Grand Ole Opry is the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It is truly an amazing hotel with its own river that runs throughout the hotel. You can even take a boat ride on it if you wish:
It is a remarkable structure. It looks like it would be a lot of fun to stay here.
We stepped back in time at the Andrew Jackson Hermitage:
This is the home of our seventh President, Andrew Jackson. He lived at this historical plantation from 1804 until his death in 1845.
We saw the coolest building in Nashville:
I sent my son this picture and he texted me back asking if I was visiting Gotham City! This 33 story building, colloquially known as the "Batman Building", is the tallest building in Tennessee (it also houses a three-story-tall garden, enclosed in glass and temperature-controlled so it can flourish all year round). I wonder if the fine people of Nashville sleep better at night knowing the Caped Crusader is standing vigil over their city? Pretty cool.
We had so much fun in and around Nashville that we give the city TWO THUMBS UP!
Interesting Delaware Connection #2
As mentioned above, the city was named after the Revolutionary War General Francis Nash. He served directly under George Washington. Being from North Carolina, he was placed in charge of the North Carolina brigade stationed near Philadelphia. When British troops sailed up the Chesapeake River and landed near Elkton, Maryland (about ten miles from where we used to live), Nash and his troops were ordered to Delaware to stem the British advance.
Unfortunately, he never made it that far. As he was marching south, he collided with British forces at the battle of the Brandywine (PA). The British later went on to capture the city of Philadelphia. On October 4, 1777, in the battle of Germantown, Washington counter attacked. During the battle, Nash was mortally wounded by a cannonball that struck him in the hip.
--And there you have it.--