I flew to Nashville on December 3 to spend a few days with my older daughter, Rya Kihlstedt. Rya is an actress and has a recurring role on ABC’s Nashville, on which she plays the role of “Marilyn.” This blog post offers a selection of photographs that I took of Nashville, the city, and of some of the people involved in the ABC production–thus the title, “A Visit to Nashville and to ABC’s “Nashville.”
The text is minimal (by my standards) and serves two purposes. One offers my personal take on the city of Nashville, and this appears in the topical divisions that organize each set of photographs. The other provides more information or commentary on a particular image.
I hope you find material of interest in this photographic essay.
Some General Observations
I experienced Nashville mainly as a pedestrian, walking around the West End, where our hotel was, and Downtown, which nestles up against the banks of the Cumberland River, defining its east edge. Immediately evident to me was that Nashville is not particularly pedestrian-friendly. The area between the West End and Downtown felt like a no-man’s land, created by the looping Interstate Highways (I-40 and I-65), the wide cut of the railway lines, and a general lack of building density that normally provide the backdrop for human activity, visual stimulation and a sense of protection. Once downtown, this was no longer an issue. However, it seems as if most travel in Nashville is by automobile, and pedestrians will find that the timing of traffic lights is all about the car and, in many places, accommodates foot traffic only reluctantly.
That said, there is much of interest in Nashville, especially Downtown, and the city is just completing the installation of bicycle rental stations (see the third photograph below) that may ease the movement of those who are carless.
|Nashville, TN, 1st Avenue Base Camp for ABC’s Nashville|
Here is the eastern edge of Downtown, showing the Cumberland River, a commuter rail line, an open area beyond the first Downtown street, 1st Avenue, and a new automobile bridge coming in from East Nashville and Five Points. The bridge is the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, a through-arch structure spanning 1,660 feet that opened in May, 2004.
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, General View from SW|
View of Downtown from our hotel on a rainy Tuesday morning. Just to the left of the tall building sits the famous Tennessee State Capitol: more on this later.
|Nashville, TN, Nashville B Cycle (Bike Rental Station), Music Circle|
|Nashville, TN, Railroad Cut, View to NE from Demonbreun Street|
The raised viaduct crossing the railroad tracks in the distance is Broadway, which at this point is a multi-laned channel for cars, as are the other roads that carry one over the tracks and into the downtown area. The massive building with two towers is the Union Station Hotel.
|Nashville, TN, Union Station Hotel, 1890 (opened), Richard Montfort, Clock|
This particular interior shot of Union Station shows a clock flanked by allegorical female figures in sculptural relief. They represent the two cities of the main L&N line: Louisville and Nashville.
Nashville as State Capital
When it was determined in 1843 that Nashville would become the permanent State Capital (over Knoxville and several other competing cities), the Philadelphia architect, William Strickland was asked to design the new Capitol building. Strickland was among the most important architects in America, and he would live the last nine years of his life in Nashville during the building of the Capitol, where he remains, entombed in its northeast wall.
His use of Ionic, octastyle, pedimental temple fronts is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture, of which he was America’s first practitioner with his 1818 Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia. But then, penetrating the roof at his building’s center is a separate element, derived from a different style and period of ancient Greek architecture: the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. And so we might also see this building as an early example of the eclecticism that characterizes much American architecture after mid-century.
Furthermore, I am tempted to see Strickland’s building as the first step in raising the consciousness of the citizens of Nashville to the importance of good architectural design, particularly classical architecture, and thus as a lead-in to the next section of this photo essay: “Athens of the South.” Lastly, I find a wonderful coincidence in the fact that Nashville is known today as “Music City,” and that the Monument of Lysicrates commemorates the winning of an Athenian musical performance for the year 335-4 B.C.
|Nashville, TN, Tennessee State Capitol, 1845-59, William Strickland, View NW|
|Nashville, TN, Tennessee State Capitol, 1845-59, William Strickland, Detail of Ionic Order|
Nashville as “Athens of the South”
By mid-century, Nashville had become the political center of the state and also was growing into a major educational center for the south. One of its early educators was Philip Lindsley who, in 1824, went from acting president at Princeton to become chancellor of Cumberland College, which he re-named the University of Nashville. Lindsley brought some of the most eminent scholars to teach here and so suggested that Nashville be called the “Athens of the Southwest.” With the celebration of the Tennessee Centennial some seventy years later, and the building of the full-scale replica of the Parthenon, Nashville began to call itself, even more grandly, “The Athens of the South.”
Here are several buildings that reinforce this sobriquet by their classically-influenced style and/or by their clear interest in transcending mere building and embracing important architects or fashionable architectural styles.
|Nashville, TN, Centennial Park, Parthenon, 1897 (rebuilt: 1920-25) South Side, Night View|
|Nashville, TN, Centennial Park, Parthenon, 1897 (1920-25: rebuilt), South Side|
|Nashville, TN, Centennial Park, Parthenon, West Pediment, Contest between Poseidon & Athena|
|Nashville, TN, Replica of Dionysos from the East Pediment|
|Nashville, TN, Parthenon, Interior, 1931, Athena Parthenos, 1990, Alan LeQuire|
|Nashville, TN, Basilica of the Incarnation, 1907-14, Fred Asmus (with Bishop Thos. Sebastian Byrne)|
|Nashville, TN, Tennessee War Memorial, 1919-25, Edward Dougherty (with McKim, Mead & White)|
|Nashville, TN, Nashville Public Library, opened 2001, Robert A. M. Stern|
|Nashville, TN, Davidson County Courthouse, 1936-38, Emmons H. Woolwine & Frederic C. Hirons|
The public may slowly rotate these torsos by a geared wheel at ground level.
|Nashville, TN, Customs House (now Federal Office Bldg.), 1875 ff, William A. Potter|
|Nashville, TN, Christ Church Cathedral, 1889-94, Francis Hatch Kimball, Detail of Side Portal|
|Nashville, TN, Tennessee State Prison, 1898, Enoch Guy Elliott|
|Nashville, TN, Union Station (Hotel), opened 1900, Richard Montfort|
|Nashville, TN, Union Station (Hotel), opened 1900, Richard Montfort, Central Vault|
|Nashville, TN, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Orig. U. S. Post Office, 1933-34, Marr & Holman|
|Nashville, TN, Bridgestone Arena, 1996, Populous and Hart Freeland Roberts, Inc.|
Nashville, “Music City”
Lore has it that Nashville was first called “Music City” by radio announcer, David Cobb in 1950. Cobb was affiliated with the all-music radio station, WSM-AM, beginning in 1937, and was one of the first three announcers at the Grand Ole Opry (which first began in 1925 as the WSM Barn Dance). The name stuck.
But, then, some Nashville enthusiasts attempt to weave this nickname further back into Nashville’s history, citing Davy Crockett (called its “first celebrity”) and his colorful stories and fiddle playing, and the city’s growth as a national center for music publishing in the later nineteenth century.
Today, its connection to music is hard to dispute, given the recording studios and entertainment offices on Music Row, the songwriting centered around the Bluebird Cafe, Bobby Jones’ gospel music series on Black Entertainment Television (cable’s longest running program), United Record Pressing, Symphony Center and its many honly-tonks.
|Nashville, TN, Microphone Bike Stand, Music Circle, 2010, Franne Lee, Keith Harmon & Mac Hill|
Symbolic form says it all.
|Nashville, TN, Musical Utility Box, Located near Music Row|
|Nashville, TN, Musica, 2003, Alan LeQuire|
Musica, meant to embody the spontaneous creativity of music, erupts from the center of a traffic circle, Buddy Killen Circle, in Nashville’s Music Row area. Topping out at a height of 38 feet, it is reputed to be the largest sculptural grouping in the United States.
|Nashville, TN, Barbershop Harmony Society, 2007, Tuck Hinton Architects|
Where else but “Music City” would we find an elegant, new, modernist building dedicated to the art of the barbershop quartet? Even its four central pilasters are emblematic of the four-part harmony of this art form. Click here for a video of barbershop harmony.
|Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium (Union Gospel Tabernacle), 1892, Hugh Cathcart Thompson|
|Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium, Interior View of Balcony and Stage|
|Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, Jimmy Dickens performing|
|Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium, Framed Posters of Past Performers|
The Ryman Auditorium is the gem in Nashville’s musical setting. Nashville riverboat captain and businessman, Thomas Ryman (1843-1904) built it as an auditorium for the revivalist preacher, Samuel Porter Jones, whose words and wit swept Ryman away one day in 1885. Jones, ostensibly, also was an important influence on Will Rogers.The Ryman seats 2,362, offers good acoustics and good viewing everywhere with its wide girth, and was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974; the Opry still broadcasts from here, as Rya and I were able to catch on Tuesday, December 4. People often refer to it as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, 2001, Tuck Hinton Architects|
The Country Music Hall of Fame, seen here in the foreground, incorporates musical symbols into its design. In just the five, tall, vertical windows visible in my photograph, one can see that its fenestration is patterned on the configuration of piano keys. This corner also juts out in a way that evokes another product of that classic period of the 1950s enshrined within–the tail end of a Cadillac. And, were we able to float above the building, we would see that it is configured in the shape of a bass clef.The building behind it with undulating roof and bulging central section is the Music City Center, a 1, 200,000 square foot convention center that is slated for completion in 2013.
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, Displays, Foreground: Patty Loveless velvet stage costume ca. 1991|
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, Displays, Patsy Cline, Boots & Costume, 1950s by Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors|
Patsy Cline was part of the early, so-called “Nashville sound” before she crossed over into pop music to become one of the most successful female vocalists of her time. Click here to listen to one of her renditions of Willie Nelson’s Crazy.
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, Displays, Buck Owens, 1966, Stage Costume|
Buck Owens wore this costume in 1966 during his famous Carnegie Hall Concert, which brought national recognition to Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, his country music band. Three years later, he co-hosted the TV series, Hee Haw, for seventeen years. Click here to listen to Buck Owens sing Crying Time, which he wrote in 1964 and which we probably all remember from albums by Ray Charles and by Willie Nelson.
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, Displays, Webb Pierce’s Silver Dollar Convertible (1962 Pontiac Bonneville)|
|Nashville, TN, Country Music Hall of Fame, Displays, Elvis Presley’s Gold Piano, 1968 (1928 Kimball Grand)|
Elvis, of course, needs no commentary, except maybe to place him in Nashville early in his career. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 1954 and recorded his first number one hit in Nashville two years later, Heartbreak Hotel–click here to listen to it. He also recorded 260 songs RCA’s Nashville Studio B.
This piano was a first anniversary gift to Elvis from his wife, Priscilla Beaulieu in 1968. Click here to listen to Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis playing some boogie woogie on two pianos.
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Broadway and 5th, Honky Tonk Heroes, Ron Sweeney (artist)|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Broadway, Musical Buskers|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Broadway, Musical Busker|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Broadway|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Broadway, Plastic Elvis Statue|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, American National Bank Building, 301Broadway|
The visual aspects of Honky-Tonk can be seen in these photographs of Broadway’s sidewalk at night: a mix of busker musicians, seekers of night life, lots of neon to enliven the architectural fabric with a certain tawdriness and glitz. How better can we reveal this than by this sedate, classical bank which now advertises itself in neon as a tattoo parlor?
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Printer’s Alley|
|Nashville, TN, Printer’s Alley, Rick Tiger & Dawson Higgs|
Nashville, the Protestant Vatican
Nashville has also been referred to as the “Protestant Vatican” and the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” It has more than 700 churches, several seminaries, many Christian schools, colleges and universities, and it is the seat of the National Baptist Convention, USA. Gideons International, the Gospel Music Association, and the world’s largest producer of Bibles, Thomas Nelson also are based in Nashville.I was aware of this almost everywhere I walked. I chose these two photographs, in particular, as exemplars of this phenomenon. As a northerner and easterner, I can’t imagine encountering a building, particularly one of such elegance and prestigious scale being dedicated to the Baptist Sunday School Board. I couldn’t even imagine what its function was. I now know: the major printer for everything used by the Southern Baptist Church. In fact, today it is known as LifeWay, whose new and much larger building is seen in the second of these photographs.
|Nashville, TN, Baptist Sunday School Board Building, 1913-14, Gardner and Seal Architects|
|Nashville, TN, LifeWay Christian Store|
Honoring Nashville’s Women
|Nashville, TN, Ann Robertson Cockrill (1757-1821) home marker, Centennial Park|
|Nashville, TN, Anne Dallas Dudley (1876-1955) historical marker, West End Avenue|
Anne Dudley, as this marker tells us, founded and was president of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League, and later also the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association. She was instrumental in getting the Nineteenth Amendment ratified in Tennessee. With this act, Tennessee became the final state needed to enact the amendment.Unfortunately, some Tennessee men in 2012 need to be reminded of Anne Dudley’s heroic efforts to secure the vote for all citizens. Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed a voter ID bill sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R, of course) that specifically excluded the use of student IDs.
|Nashville, TN, Woman’s Building site marker, Centennial Park|
The Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 marked the hundredth anniversary of statehood, and its many buildings and other monuments were built, in temporary form, in Centennial Park. The Woman’s Building was designed by a local artist, Sara Ward Conley as a “modified version” of Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage. Each room inside was designed by a different women’s organization. Among the events hosted in it were an Equal Suffrage Convocation, a talk by Jane Addams, and a talk by Susan B. Anthony.Two statements on this marker are of interest. One is a quotation from civic activist, Kate Kirkman that defines women’s work as “whatever may be necessary to preserve the sanctity of the home and ensure the freedom of the state.” The other statement is an enigma to me. It reads (in its entirety) as follows: “That that is round can be no rounder.” I leave it to my readers to enlighten me on this.
|Nashville, TN, Monument to the Women of the Confederacy, 1926, Belle Kinney, War Memorial Plaza|
Among the many war monuments in this plaza is this one, dedicated to the heroic action of the women of Tennessee during the War Between the States. As sculptor Kinney explains, this work shows Fame supporting a wounded Confederate soldier while placing a wreath on the head of Southern Woman, who attempts to minister to the wounded soldier.
|Nashville, TN, James Robertson (1742-1814) Monument, Centennial Park|
Robertson was an early companion of Daniel Boone, co-founded what is now Nashville, and was an major actor in the settlement of Middle Tennessee.
|Nashville, TN, Frank Cheatham (1820-1866) Monument, 1909, Centennial Park|
Frank Cheatham was a Tennessee planter who became a general in the Confederate Army. His mother was descended from James Robertson.
|Nashville, TN, John W. Thomas Memorial, 1907, Centennial Park|
|Nashville, TN, Korean War Memorial, 1992, Russel Faxon, War Memorial Plaza|
|Nashville, TN, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1986, Alan LeQuire, War Memorial Plaza|
|Nashville, TN, La Storia della Terra, 1999-2001, Kubach-Wilmsen sculptors|
The West End
|Nashville, TN, Vanderbilt Stadium, William R. Frist Family Gate|
|Nashville, TN, West End, Elliston Place, empty restaurant|
I simply liked the anomaly of the neon sign stating “open,” and a completely empty restaurant. In its defense, this was take quite late at night.
|Nashville, TN, West End, Elder’s Bookstore, Elliston Place|
|Nashville, TN, West End, Elliston Place Soda Fountain, Elliston Place|
|ABC’s Nashville, Rya Kihlstedt (Marilyn) with Laura, Hair & Makeup Trailer, 1st Avenue Base Camp|
|ABC’s Nashville, Connie Britton (Rayna) with Garnet, Sarah and Rya Kihlstedt, Hair & Makeup Trailer, 1st Avenue Base Camp|
|ABC’s Nashville, Juliette’s Hair, Hair & Makeup Trailer, 1st Avenue Base Camp|
|ABC’s Nashville, Jonathan Jackson (Avery) & Eric Close (Teddy), Rehearsal site for the big party|
|ABC’s Nashville, Michiel Huisman (Liam), Rehearsal site for the big party|
Behind Michiel is a poster to celebrate Wrong Song, the hit duo by Rayna and Juliette. Click here to listen to Wrong Song….and since it is often difficult to pick up the lyrics with complete clarity, click here for the lyrics.
ABC’s Nashville, the Sound Stages
Here is where many of the scenes are shot, where Joanie the seamstress puts together all the costumes, where Gary the set designer does his magic, and where everyone seems to always be hard at work.
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Joanie at work|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Rayna’s Kitchen|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Forest backdrop|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Private Airplane, exterior|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Private Airplane, interior|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Blue Bird Cafe|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Column|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Gary (and hands of Rya Kihlstedt, a.k.a. Marilyn)|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Fabrication shop|
|ABC’s Nashville, Sound Stages, Costume Mannequins|
|Nashville, TN, detail of Monument to the Women of the Confederacy, War Memorial Plaza|
|Nashville, TN, Union Station Hotel, Central Arch, main façade|
|Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium, Central Niche and Light Sconce, main façade|
|Nashville, TN, Downtown, Old industrial building, 2nd Avenue|
|Nashville, TN, Renasant Bank, 1820 West End Avenue|
No, they didn’t misspell “Renaissance,” as I found out with some research, but I guess that this is your bank for fun.
|Nashville, TN, Wurlitzer 1015 Jukebox, 1946, Paul Fuller (designer), Country Music Hall of Fame|
|Nashville, TN, Parthenon interior, toes of Athena Parthenos, 1990|
Back in the Bronx
|Bronx, NY, 138th Street and Alexander Avenue|
Bruce Camber says
Excellent piece of work.
Thank you. Five stars.