The Hermitage Hotel
|Architectural style||Beaux Arts|
|NRHP Reference #||75001749|
|Added to NRHP||July 24, 1975|
The Hermitage Hotel, also known as Hermitage Hotel, is a historic hotel located at 231 6th Avenue North in Nashville, Tennessee. Commissioned by 250 Nashville residents in 1908 and named for Andrew Jackson's estate The Hermitage near Nashville, the hotel opened in 1910. It was built in the Beaux-arts style and is the only remaining example of this style of architecture in a commercial building in Tennessee.
The Hermitage Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Hermitage Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Hotel was constructed in the heart of downtown Nashville, two blocks from the state capitol, where Nashville's finest residential neighborhood evolved into a business district early in the 20th century. Commissioned by 250 Nashvillians in 1908, The Hotel Hermitage opened its doors on Saturday, September 17, 1910. It was Nashville's third "skyscraper" to be built downtown, and instantly became a sensational success as a business and social center. "Meet me at the Hermitage" was an oft heard phrase, and continues to generate excitement today with a new interpretation of elegance in a timeless, classic setting. In 1910, the new hotel advertised its rooms as "fireproof, noiseproof, and dustproof, rooms $2.00 and up." The hotel opened with every possible modern convenience, including a telephone and circulating ice water in all guest rooms.
The lobby itself was, and still is the main focal point of the hotel, a spacious Beaux-Arts masterpiece graced with a profusion of ornamental plaster and a painted glass ceiling. From the street entrance, a grand staircase leads to the lobby with walls distinctively built of golden-hued Sienna Marble. The Main Dining Room (now Grand Ballroom) was located off the lobby area and is richly detailed with Circassian walnut walls and an ornate ceiling, features that still exist today. A social room to the front of the hotel, elevated above lobby level, was named the Loggia (now Veranda). It was designed in an Italian Renaissance style, clad in ornamental white and poly chrome terra cotta with arched openings and balconies overlooking the street. Downstairs, adjoining the Oak Bar, was the Grille Room (now The Capitol Grille), which was originally designed as a rathskeller with vaulted ceilings and wood paneling. Along street entrance were an array of shops that included a pharmacy and clothing store, later a familiar place for many Nashvillians as an American Airlines ticket office. The original hotel included an exhibit hall on the ninth (top) floor, salesmen "sample rooms" on the eight floor, a cigar and newsstand in the lobby, and barbershop on the Grille level.
As one of Nashville's leading hotels, it was the national platform for both pro and anti-suffrage forces in 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote. The hotel also had early musical roots and influences in Nashville with its hotel "big band", the Francis Craig Orchestra. Mr. Craig and his musicians were part of the first day's live radio broadcast of newly formed station WSM in October, 1925, the same station that soon developed the Grand Old Opry programming. Craig, on the eve of retirement in 1947, became a national musical celebrity when a song he'd composed and recorded, "Near You" become America's top selling record. Released on an independent label, the success helped compel the major record companies to establish a stronger Nashville presence and is a footnote in the evolution story of the then-emerging "Music City".
The Hermitage Hotel has experienced a storied past, including presidential visits that began with a banquet for President Taft in 1911, followed by Governor Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and in more recent decades, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. State politics has played a large role in the hotel history. It was often a campaign headquarters and an after-hours meeting place for legislators. Celebrities from Charlie Chaplin to Jack Dempsey have enjoyed the hospitality offered at the Hermitage, which has been known as much for it's high levels of elegant service and dining as for its distinctive architecture.
The hotel is also celebrated as a preservationists success story. The grand dame closed at the end of 1977 with its fate uncertain. During that era the popularity of the inner city had declined, and the hotel's prosperity had followed suit. Local preservationists (now Historic Nashville, Inc.) and Mayor Richard Fulton were driving forces behind saving the Hermitage as well as other iconic landmarks of downtown Nashville such as the Ryman Auditorium. The hotel changed ownership and underwent a complete renovation, reopening in 1981 as a Park Suite Hotel. Subsequently, the hotel changed hands several more times in the 1980s and 1990s. Legendary pool player Minnesota Fats lived in the hotel during part of this era. In June 2000, Historic Hotels of Nashville, LLC, purchased The Hermitage Hotel and completely renovated the guest rooms and public areas. Originally offering 250 guestrooms a century ago, the hotel now provides 122 luxurious oversized rooms and five fixture bathrooms to the travelling public. The hotel reopened on Valentine's Day 2003 and received the American Automobile Association (AAA) Five-Diamond rating in 2007. It is currently the only AAA Five-Diamond hotel in Tennessee. A Forbes 5-Star rating (then Mobil 5-Star) was awarded in 2008 and these accolades have also perpetuated. 
Ties to Nashville music industry
The Francis Craig Orchestra entertained Nashvillians from the Oak Bar and Grille Room from 1929 to 1945. Craig's orchestra was also the first to broadcast over WSM and enjoyed phenomenal success with a 12-year show that was aired over the entire NBC network. In 1949, he introduced a newcomer, Dinah Shore, who entertained his audience with a new song entitled, "Near You."
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Historic Hermitage Hotel Reopens On Valentine's Day". The Chattanoogan. 2003-02-14. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- Hotel History, Hermitage Hotel website
- Holliday, Taylor (2004-05-07). "36 hours: In Nashville". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-29.[dead link]
- Frommer's (2006-12-29). "Best bets for a place to stay in Nashville". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- The Hermitage Hotel, a Historic Hotels of America member. Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
- "AAA Inspectors Pick Their Top Ten Historic Hotels for Independence Day". press release. American Automobile Association. Retrieved 2009-06-23.