Last week I had the ultimate privilege of joining two fellow Southern ladies on a week-long trip to Nashville, TN. I absolutely LOVE Nashville. When I was in college, I spent my summer between my junior and senior year working with musicians in Nashville; it was one of the most memorable and best summers of my life.
Nashville gets on the map because of its affiliation with country music and while there is no shortage of musical locations to be found in Nashville, some of the best parts of Nashville have nothing to do with the music business at all: Vanderbuilt and Belmont Universities, the Hermitage (the former plantation home of Andrew Jackson), the downtown historic district, the Parthenon (the only full-size replica of the Parthenon in Greece in the world), beautiful churches and cathedrals as well as Union Station.
It was quite by accident that I found myself in Union Station this past week. We had booked hotel reservations at a less-than-desirable hotel and upon further research we found the historic Union Station Hotel. It's heavy-stone Richardsonian-Romanesque facade was the clincher.
The hotel was not always a hotel and once operated as a bustling train station. The station was built in 1900 and served eight train lines in its heyday. The National Historic Landmark boasts many towers and its main tower was originally topped by a bronze statue of the Roman god Mercury (which was destroyed but replaced by a replica in the mid-1990's). After the decline of railway travel in the late 1970's, the station was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Fortunately a vocal group of local activists saved the structure and it was reopened as a hotel in 1986.
The entrance to the hotel is flanked by a iron-railed bridge and stained glass windows.
Marble floors, oak-accented doors and walls, and three limestone fireplaces are featured in the station lobby.
An original train station schedule hangs over the front desk of the hotel.
The 65-foot, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling features gold-leaf medallions and 100-year-old, original Luminous Prism stained glass.
Two bas-relief panels - a steam locomotive and horse-drawn chariot - can be found at each end of the lobby.
The Train Shed was the largest unsupported span in America, housing up to 10 full trains at once. It was destroyed by rot and a fire in 2000.
The train tracks that run beside Union Station (to the left) are still very active.
Do make a point to check out Union Station if you find yourself in Nashville, TN. You won't be disappointed by the first-rate accommodations, the friendly staff and the magnificent building.