Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Music City Walkabout

I was in Tennessee recently, catching up with some old friends and revisiting some familiar sights. I have a 25–year history there, having lived in Knoxville for nearly 10 years and then middle Tennessee for 15 years.

IMG_0327Shelby StreetBridge
Shelby Street pedestrian bridge spans the Cumberland River near downtown Nashville

In 1997 I left Nashville for good to relocate to the southern Utah desert but I do like to travel back to my old haunts every now and then. I also enjoy that for a few weeks my hair becomes really curly (frightfully, at times) and I rarely have to use any skin moisturizer. This is the blessing and curse of humidity usually in the high double digits. 

One thing I liked about living in the state capital (besides curly hair and seriously hydrated skin) was the detailed architecture of the older buildings.  I would often go downtown and just walk around for a few hours, absorbing what I could of its history.  It might surprise some folks to learn that Nashville is a very historic city situated as it is along the Cumberland River.  One of the facts I found most interesting was that it had been the furthest western outpost during Revolutionary War times. 

Apparently, any renovation of old buildings in the downtown area must adhere to a strict historic code. If it’s old, it’s got to stay true to its oldness. 

Since I stayed in the Nashville area for a good part of this recent trip I thought it might be fun to take in an easy downtown walkabout with my old friend LF.  Although she lives there we both happily became the ultimate Music City tourists for an afternoon. 

Nashville skyline


IMG_0333Along FirstAvenue
 Limestone wall along First Avenue    


Date of building is 1882

IMG_0345Detail SilverDollarSaloon
Detail of building housing Silver Dollar Saloon

There is a classic song by the Red Clay Ramblers, about the old Merchants Lunch on Lower Broadway on an album of the same name (you can find a great video on YouTube).  Now an upscale restaurant in an original 1892 building, the Ramblers warbled that it was an “ocean of gloom - it looked like half past midnight in the afternoon.”  

I had been to Merchants in the early 1980s when I was working on the Columbia Archaeological Project, and “an ocean of gloom” was definitely an apt description back then.  Sadly, I never did happen to come across “Broadway Brenda and her derelict court.”

IMG_0353 MerchantsLunch Bldg
Merchants Lunch building dated 1892

It was revealed during this afternoon walkabout that LF has lived in Nashville since the 1970s but had never been to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge!  It didn’t take much convincing for her to go inside with me and enjoy an afternoon adult beverage while listening to a three-man band play screechy country music.  It’s what they do there.

IMG_0362Outside TootsiesOrchid Lounge
Outside Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Lower Broadway
Ryman Auditorium

Downtown Nashville

IMG_0373Historic Downtown Presbyterian Church
Historic Downtown Presbyterian Church



By this time the winter sun had started to drop behind the jagged horizon of the downtown buildings and the air took on a deeper chill.  LF and I ambled back to our cars by way of the Shelby St. pedestrian bridge where we paused to watch the golden light of sunset reflect off the bridge.

Shelby Street pedestrian bridge

LF wanted to show me the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center as our final stop.  We listened for a moment as a woman tuned the grand piano and I thought how divine it would be to listen to the Nashville Symphony in this concert hall.  Maybe I’ll plan my next trip to Tennessee so that I can.

Where is the best venue you have ever listened to a symphony – indoor or out?  Tell us about your experience in a comment!

IMG_0415 Schermerhorn SymphonyCenter
Schermerhorn Symphony Center


  1. Not a city girl, but I enjoyed your tour and love the old buildings, especially the shots you took looking up at them.

    1. Thanks! I really had a fun time walking around and looking at the architectural detail of the buildings.

  2. Great little ramble! I maintain that too few people spend too little time being tourists in their own towns.

    Best music for me is 2 places in Toledo: 1. The Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art. Totally class act. 2. The Amphitheater at the Toledo Zoo. Built by the WPA, seats 1000, it's the best! In the summer they have a free concert by the Toledo Symphonic Band every Sunday evening. Another completely Toledo experience.

    1. I agree - if we don't spend time getting to know our own towns (even tho I don't live in Nashville anymore) then we miss out on so much! BTW - my friend LF works part time for the Nashville tourism bureau and so was full of fun facts about the buildings (info which I promptly forgot!).

      The lack of high quality classical venues is one thing I really do miss about living in a big city.