Historic Nashville Structures

Words: Bronzella Cleveland
Union Station building in Nashville, TN.
Union Station building in Nashville, TN.

As I’ve stated previously on this page, in my personal travels around this nation I often find myself exploring the local architectural histories of many of the cities I visit. Admittedly, I only scratch the surface of the building histories in America’s cities (I do this during vacation, not on a research grant.), but I do make a point to visit certain structures while vacationing, or to at least keep my eyes open for interesting masonry buildings. I’m sure many of you do the same.

So during the Independence Day holiday weekend this year, I made the short drive from Atlanta to Nashville for a little R&R. I have been to Nashville before, but never had the opportunity to explore the city freely. So on this most recent trip I soaked up the holiday atmosphere (Music City truly knows how to commemorate the 4th of July!) while seeking out some interesting architecture. And sure enough, Nashville didn’t disappoint.

Among the standout buildings I came across was the Union Station building on Broadway, which is now a beautiful hotel. Originally, the structure was built as a railway station in 1900. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, the Gothic stone structure was a key link in America’s railway economy. Today, the restored Richardson Romanesque landmark stands as a welcoming milestone to downtown Nashville and an easy visual cue for visitors exploring the town’s trendy West End neighborhood.

Just a short walk down Broadway from Union Station and into downtown Nashville, one can find the old Customs House building. Opened in 1882, the stone building was designed by Treasury Department architect William Appleton Potter. From its ornate stone block, a central clock tower rises. The many opulent details, such as the Gothic lancet windows and an inset triple-arch entrance, make this a remarkable example of Victorian Gothic architecture. For nearly 100 years, federal officials used the facility before declaring it “surplus” and turning it over to the city.

Nashville is lucky to have these two, historic structures – and many others – for us all to enjoy. I certainly don’t consider them surplus, and I’m glad Nashville doesn’t either.

The Customs House in Nashville.
The Customs House in Nashville, TN.
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