As the “Country Music Capital of the World,” Nashville is world renowned for its music and honky-tonks. Although music influences virtually every aspect of modern life in the cosmopolitan city, Nashville has a diverse and storied history. While many people know that the city was founded on Christmas Eve in 1779, most do not know that President Roosevelt crafted the phrase “good to the last drop.” If you are planning a trip to the Music City, the following lesser-known facts will give you a better perspective of the city and its colorful history.
Rachel Donelson was the daughter of one of the city’s founders, John Donelson. She moved to Fort Nashborough with her family at the age of 12. She would later marry Andrew Jackson, who became the seventh president of the United States.
The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s Nashville-area home, was built in 1835. While not known at the time, the architecture fits its setting; the driveway was constructed in the shape of a guitar. Some believe that it was a foreshadowing of the city’s musical future.
The designer of the Tennessee Capitol, William Strickland, thought the edifice was his crowning achievement. As a result, he is entombed above the building’s cornerstone. Strickland is not the only person interred inside the walls of the Tennessee Capitol. Samuel Morgan, a wealthy entrepreneur and philanthropist, is buried in a crypt on the south wall. In addition, President James Polk and his wife are buried in a tomb designed by Strickland on the statehouse grounds.
Known as the “Athens of the South” in the 1890s, the city built a full-size replica of the Parthenon for the World Exposition of 1897. Located in the 132-acre Centennial Park, it houses a full-scale replica of the 42-foot- tall statue of Athena. The artwork is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest enclosed sculpture.
Legend holds that President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Maxwell House Hotel’s coffee “good to the last drop.” Although the famed Nashville hotel is gone, the coffee company that adopted its name still uses the slogan.
In 1928, Morris Frank investigated the possibility of using seeing-eye dogs. The visually impaired Vanderbilt University student brought the first service dog back to the U.S. and founded The Seeing Eye, Inc. in Nashville.
Although Kentucky is synonymous with horse racing, two well-known thoroughbreds, War Admiral and Seabiscuit, hail from Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. Both steeds, immortalized in the novel and movie “Seabiscuit,” trace their lineage to Iroquois, the first thoroughbred to win the English Derby.
In 1941, the original WSM became the first commercial radio station in the United States to receive an FM license. David Cobb, a WSM radio announcer in the 1950s, is credited with calling Nashville “Music City” for the first time.
Founded in 1901, the Standard Candy Company uses over 3 million pounds of chocolate annually. Its signature confection, the Goo Goo Cluster, is a combination of milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow.
Elvis Presley recorded more than 200 songs in the historic RCA Studio B. While recording a Christmas album in July one year, “The King” had a difficult time getting into the holiday spirit. To lift his mood, the sound crew put up a string of blue, green and red-colored lights that are still hanging in the recording booth.
When visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, check out the building’s architecture. One end of the building features an RKO-style radio antenna, and the tall, narrow windows resemble a piano keyboard. The upswept angle was inspired by a classic Cadillac tailfin. From the air, the building looks like a bass clef. Before Kathy Mattea launched her singing career, she conducted tours of the building.
The tallest skyscraper in Tennessee, the 33-story AT&T Building is known around the world as the “Batman Building” because its façade resembles the shape of the action hero’s mask.
Originally called WSM Barn Dance in honor of a similar radio program that aired in Chicago, Nashville’s famous weekly country music show was renamed Grand Ole Opry by George Hay on December 10, 1927. It is the world’s longest-running live music radio show.
Sea captain William Driver, a Nashville resident, is credited with giving the American flag the nickname “Old Glory” in 1837.
Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” Ryman Auditorium was originally a tabernacle for gospel meetings. A six-foot oak circle removed from the stage at the Ryman was embedded center stage at the Grand Ole Opry House when it was built in 1974. The grand opening of the new venue featured President Richard Nixon playing “God Bless America” on the piano.
Nashville hosts Tin Pan South, the largest songwriter’s festival in the world. The weeklong springtime festival draws approximately 350 songwriters who perform their original music in various venues around the city.
With an enclave of approximately 11,000 people, the Kurdish community in Nashville is the largest in North America.
Hot Chicken, one of Nashville’s best-known culinary traditions, was created to inflict pain. When Thornton Prince’s girlfriend suspected him of cavorting with other women in the 1930s, she added extra seasonings to the chicken batter. He liked the fiery flavor so much that he refined her recipe and opened a restaurant that became known as Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.
Oprah Winfrey got her start in television as the first African-American female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV while she was still a student at Tennessee State University.
East Nashville’s historic Five Points District hosts an annual costume art festival dedicated to the tomato. It is one of the city’s premier hipster events. A King and Queen Tomato are elected to lead a parade featuring a brass band.
Since its founding in 1949, United Records Pressing has produced recordings for numerous legendary performers. In today’s age of digital music, it is one of only four companies in the nation still producing vinyl records.
The world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers hail from Nashville’s historically black Fisk University. When visiting Nashville, you can learn more interesting facts and trivia during an Old Town Trolley tour!