by Jeanne Brei
Readers know my affinity for historic buildings and Nashville encourages not just historical preservation but renovations on the interiors as well. You could stay in the old main train station built in 1900, a recently renovated Presbyterian church that was originally built in 1904 or in the luxurious Hermitage Hotel built in 1910 and recently renovated to the tune of $20 million.
Originally built in the year 1900, Union Station’s imposing Gothic design—complete with turrets and towers—made Union Station an architectural marvel in its day, delighting travelers with its beautiful detailing, including ornate wood carvings, sparkling stained glass, beautiful Italian marble, and soaring ceilings. After nearly 100 years, a National Historic Landmark designation, and a $15.5 million renovation, Union Station is Nashville’s newest luxury hotel.
Today, the hotel in the heart of the city offers 125 uniquely decorated guest rooms and suites, an on-site bar and restaurant, beautifully appointed event spaces, and more, including its historical, heavy-stone Richardsonian-Romanesque design, 65-foot, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling, featuring gold-leaf medallions and 100-year-old, original luminous prism stained glass; marble floors, oak-accented doors and walls, and three limestone fireplaces; 20 gold-accented bas-relief angel of commerce figurines and two bas-relief panels—a steam locomotive and a traveling chariot—at each end of the lobby.
The Russell, a 23-room boutique hotel in East Nashville, was constructed in the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church, built in 1904. It just opened in June after a $7 million renovation as a tech-focused boutique hotel where guests use their smartphones to check in and out. The Russell also features a photo booth and an on-site podcasting recording studio for guests or visitors. Among the 23 rooms, eight are single beds while 15 have multiple sleeping options, including two suites. The Russell blends elements from the church, like some of the building’s original stained glass and pews as headboards in the majority of the rooms. Room numbers are styled as bible verses. Exposed brick in certain parts of the hotel give it a modern, rustic feel. There’s an old-school luggage lift on the first floor for guests who prefer not to haul their belongings upstairs.
As Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel, no expense was spared in the Hermitage’s furnishings: sienna marble in the entrance; wall panels of Russian walnut; a painted glass ceiling in the vaulted lobby; Persian rugs and massive overstuffed furniture. Downstairs, adjoining the Oak Bar, was the Grille Room (now the Capitol Grille) which was built by German craftsmen and a design. These days, the AAA Five Diamond hotel is Nashville’s only remaining landmark of such grandeur. The historic hotel was built in a Beaux Art style and advertised itself in 1910 as “fireproof, noise-proof, and dust-proof, $2.00 and up.”
Due to its central downtown location, right next to the Capitol building, the historic Hermitage Hotel quickly became the preferred gathering spot for Nashville’s socialites, politicians, and entertainers. Notable figures such as William Howard Taft, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Al Capone all made their way to The Hermitage Hotel and called it home for a spell. The term, “Meet me at the Hermitage” became a tradition and practically a city slogan that still holds true today. After being closed awhile, The Hermitage reopened its doors on Valentine’s Day of 2003 after undergoing a $20 million renovation that increased the size of the guest rooms, finished the bathrooms in marble, and added extra deep soaking tubs. An additional $5 million was spent adding iPod docking stations and large flat screen televisions to both the bedroom and bath.
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 85. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecnflipbook_julyaugust_2019_web