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After more than a century, Nashville’s first enclosed shopping center is still a popular attraction. The Arcade was created in 1902 with the enclosure of the former Overton Alley. Featuring identical Palladian entrances, the Arcade is located between Fourth and Fifth avenues north of Broadway. The local firm Thompson, Gibel & Asmus patterned their design of the two-story arcade after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The Edgefield and Nashville Manufacturing Company was entrusted with the task of constructing the Arcade. A gabled glass roof whose rolled steel bracing system was installed by the Nashville Bridge Company allows natural light to enter the interior space. The exterior face of the first floor shops boasts a funky Art Deco style. More than 40,000 people attended the grand opening. The popular attraction was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The shopping venue houses 50 tenants, including specialty eateries, retail shops and personal service providers on the first floor. The upper floor is home to a collection of galleries and artist workspaces. It features traditional stores like barbershops, hair salons and photography studios as well as jewelry and clothing stores. A favorite of the downtown lunchtime crowd for years, the Arcade Grille is just one of the attraction’s iconic businesses that have been in operation for a number of years or have made a name for themselves in the community. These venerable establishments and shops now cater to modern hipsters.
At one time, The Peanut Shop was one of 2,000 stores owned by Planters Peanuts across the country. When Planters phased out their stores in the 1960s, this Peanut Shop continued as a private venture. It is one of only four of the original Planters stores still in operation. The store has been serving nuts and sweet confections since 1927. In operation for more than three decades, Manny’s House of Pizza is one of the best places in the city to get Sicilian-style pies.
The Walgreen’s Pharmacy was the site for some of the earliest sit-ins during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. African-American students from Nashville’s Fisk, Meharry and Tennessee State universities staged a peaceful protest at the drugstore’s lunch counter February 20, 1960. Several months later, the lunch counters were opened to African-American customers. Nashville became the first major city in the South to desegregate public facilities.
The artists and galleries of the Arcade participate in Nashville’s First Saturday Art Crawl. Every month, artists and galleries open their spaces free of charge so that visitors can view the latest exhibits. You can see artwork by renowned and up-and-coming local and regional artists in a variety of genres. The art exhibit takes place within the Arcade from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Know Before You Go
Store and gallery hours vary. Street parking downtown is limited. A few parking garages and surface lots are located close by and offer hourly rates. Some permit-only parking facilities provide public access in the evening and for special events.
Other Attractions Nearby
Located in the James K. Polk Cultural Center, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) is a multi-venue entertainment complex that hosts a variety of shows. Guests can enjoy concerts, dances, Broadway-style productions and other cultural programs.
Once the hub of the Music City’s thriving publishing industry, Printer’s Alley became a nightclub and entertainment district, which was renowned for its “speakeasy” atmosphere. The district catered to workers in the trade. The honky tonks in the district have launched the careers of numerous popular artists.
Boasting an old country general store atmosphere, Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant is a Southern bar and grill. Its large stage hosts live musical acts. With roots going back to small town Tennessee, the restaurant is famous for its early morning breakfast offerings.