I’m an unabashed history buff. I studied it in college and make a point to search out historic sites and landmarks every chance I get. Luckily this history buff resides in the greater Nashville area, where there is plenty to learn and see.
Here are some of my top picks for the best historic landmarks and sites in the Nashville area.
The Parthenon is certainly one of Nashville’s most unexpected sites. It is the world’s only full-scale replica of the ancient Greek temple and was built for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897. (The original version, made of plaster, wood and brick, was replaced in 1931 by the more permanent concrete version that stands today.) The Athena statue inside – sculpted by Nashville artist Alan Lequire – stands at 42 feet tall, making it the western hemisphere’s largest indoor statue. Located in the heart of Centennial Park, it just goes to show you don’t have to travel far to experience a bit of the ancient Greece culture that permeates Western Civilization.
The Carter House in Franklin is a museum and interpretive center dedicated to what has been called “the bloodiest hours of the American Civil War.” While the five-hour battle was being fought in Franklin, 23 men, women and children found refuge in the Carter House basement. The Carter House is now a Registered Historic Landmark, and if you visit in April they host free Civil War-era style baseball games.
Ryman Auditorium isn’t known as the “Mother Church of Country Music” for nothing. First opening as a church in 1892, The Ryman was later home to the Grand Ole Opry until 1974, when it fell on hard times. After its grand restoration in 1994, Ryman Auditorium has consistently been named Theater and Venue of the Year. With artists ranging from Hank Williams to Taylor Swift performing on the hallowed stage, The Ryman is as much a current-day icon as it is historic. Either way, it’s on the top of my list!
Home to President Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage is a rarity among presidential residences in that over 95 percent of the antebellum plantation’s furnishings were original to the Jackson family. Surrounded by gardens and the family’s mausoleum, I like seeing The Hermitage by horse-drawn wagon when the weather is nice.
Belmont Mansion is the largest house museum in Tennessee and was home to one of the wealthiest women during the Civil War, Adelicia Acklen – for whom Acklen Avenue is named. Today it stands as memorial to the savvy Acklen who duped both Union and Confederate armies into saving and shipping $960,000 worth of her cotton crop. Talk about a businesswoman!
I rarely have time to take the scenic route, but when I do, I hop on the Natchez Trace. This historic 440-mile path that runs from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, was created millennia ago by Native Americans and was later used by early European and American explorers. The Natchez Trace is great way to get out of the city for a drive, a hike, or even a ride on horseback.
I’d be amiss if I didn’t list the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as a go-to Nashville destination. Even if, like me, you didn’t grow up knowing all the words to every George Strait or Patsy Cline song, you’ll be taken in with the music and museum’s charm and soul. Be sure to check out the museum’s current temporary exhibit “The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country.”
Where’s your favorite historic Nashville site? Let me know in the comment section below or feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.