Nashville Travel Guide


Nashville was founded as "Fort Nashborough" by James Robertson and John Donelson. Robertson made the trip overland with a small party and arrived on Christmas Day, 1779, selecting a site on the bluffs of the Cumberland River known as French Lick. Donelson, along with a group of several families, came in 30 flatboats and several pirogues down the Tennessee River and up the Cumberland, arriving April 23, 1780.1 The fort was named in honor of Francis Nash, a Revolutionary War soldier. It was renamed Nashville in 1784 when it became established as a town, and became the capital of Tennessee in 1843.

During the American Civil War, the Confederate army suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Nashville. This decisive battle effectively ended large-scale fighting in the Western

After the Civil War, Nashville quickly grew into an important trade center. Its population rose from only 16,988 in 1860 to 80,865 by 1900.2

In 1897, Nashville hosted the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition, a World's Fair celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tennessee's entry into the union. An exact replica of the Parthenon was built for the event. The Parthenon replica is now the centerpiece of Centennial Park.

The Great train wreck of 1918 occurred on July 9, 1918 in Nashville when an inbound local train collided with an outbound express, killing 101 people. This was the most deadly rail accident in U.S. history.

Tennessee was the state that put the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote, over the top, and the ratification struggle convulsed the city in August, 1920.

On March 1, 1941 W47NV (now known as WSM-FM) began operations in Nashville becoming the first FM radio station.

Nashville played a prominent role in the U.S. civil rights movement. On February 13, 1960, hundreds of college students launched a sit-in campaign to desegregate lunch counters throughout the city. Although initially met with violence and arrests, the protesters were eventually successful in pressuring local businesses to end the practice of racial segregation. Many of the activists involved in the Nashville sit-ins went on to organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which emerged as one of the most influential organizations of the civil rights movement.

Nashville has had a metropolitan government of a consolidated city-county since 1963, and was the first large U.S. city to adopt this structure.

The Nashville Tornado of 1998 struck the downtown area on April 16 at around 3:30 pm, causing serious damage and blowing out hundreds of windows from skyscrapers, raining shattered glass on the streets and closing the business district for nearly four days. Over 300 homes were damaged, and three cranes at the then-incomplete Nashville Coliseum were toppled. It was one of the most serious urban tornados on record in the U.S.

As the 21st century opened, a Nashville native rose to national political prominence when Dr. Bill Frist, formerly a transplant surgeon at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, became majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

Ancient mound-builders and the wandering Shawnee of Algonquin stock occupied modern Nashville's Cumberland River bluffs centuries ago. Europeans first settled the area in 1779 as Fort Nashborough (the Anglocentric name was Americanised five years later). The legendary Daniel Boone had a hand in the deal, and his Wilderness Road brought emigrants over the Appalachians from Virginia, the Carolinas, and the northeastern states. Nashville developed rapidly as a trade and manufacturing centre; it was chartered in 1806 and named state capital in 1843.

Its vital position on the Cumberland River (linking to the Mississippi navigation system) and at the crossroads of important rail lines made it a strategic point during the Civil War. As federal troops advanced upriver, the legislature picked up and moved to Memphis, and within the week Nashville surrendered. Another legendary Tennesseean, Andrew Johnson (then a US Senator), was appointed military governor and installed Union loyalists to occupy and impose martial law on Nashville from 1862 to 1865, which left the city intact.

Confederates aimed their sights on Nashville to cut off the rail lines supplying Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's campaign against Atlanta, and the two armies fought the Battle of Nashville south of the city in 1864. Confederate General Thomas Hood's troops were destroyed.

The city's economic recovery after the Civil War was hampered by two major cholera epidemics, which killed about a thousand people and caused thousands more to flee. The Centennial Exposition in 1897, for which the still-standing reproduction of the Greek Parthenon was built, signalled the city's eventual recovery.

Nashville's Maxwell family established the world-recognized Maxwell House Coffee business here. Teddy Roosevelt himself proclaimed it 'good to the last drop' at the Maxwell House Hotel downtown. The Maxwell estate is now a fine-arts centre and botanical garden open to the public.

But eventually, Nashville became best known around the globe for the rocketing popularity of its live broadcast Barn Dance - later sarcastically nicknamed the 'Grand Ole Opry' - which began in 1925. The city was quickly proclaimed the Country Music Capital of the World, and recording studios and production companies established themselves along Music Row just west of downtown.

In the 1960s, students from the all-black Fisk University led sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters downtown, encouraged an economic boycott and marched on city hall to demand desegregated facilities. Their successful non-violent protests served as a model and catalyst for civil rights demonstrations throughout the South.

In the 1970s, Nashville's patron Gaylord Enterprises invented the Oprylandia empire and shaped the city's country music tourist business by moving the Grand Ole Opry, renovating the Ryman Auditorium, sending boats up and down the river and contributing to the economic revitalization of the downtown riverfront.

Today, Nashville draws a wide mix of friendly locals and talented transients who dream of multimillion-dollar recording contracts. The resulting glut of excellent musicians has created an exciting, ever-evolving music scene.

Besides the entertainment business and the city's multi-million dollar tourist industry, Nashville also relies on its health care industry and a Nissan plant as economic mainstays to keep this buoyant town afloat.


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