Union Station (Nashville)

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Nashville, TN
WTN PeepHoles 156.JPG
The former Union Station, converted to a hotel, seen in 2008
Location1001 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee
United States
History
Closed1979
Former services
Preceding station BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg Amtrak Following station
Decatur Floridian Bowling Green
toward Chicago
Preceding station Louisville and Nashville Railroad Following station
Harpeth Main Line Montfort
toward Cincinnati
Nashville Union Station and Trainshed
Coordinates36°09′26″N 86°47′05″W / 36.1572°N 86.7848°W / 36.1572; -86.7848Coordinates: 36°09′26″N 86°47′05″W / 36.1572°N 86.7848°W / 36.1572; -86.7848
ArchitectRichard Montfort
NRHP reference No.69000178
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 30, 1969
Designated NHL1975
Delisted NHLJuly 31, 2003
Interior of the hotel
Newly transformed guest rooms
Hotel lobby and chandeliers

Nashville's Union Station is a former railroad terminal designed by Richard Montfort, chief engineer of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and built in 1900 to serve the passengers of the eight railroads that provided passenger service to Nashville, Tennessee, at the time.[1][2] Built just west of the downtown area, it was spanned by a viaduct adjacent to the station and positioned to the east and above a natural railroad cut, through which most of the tracks in the area were routed. The station was also used by streetcars prior to their discontinuance in Nashville in 1941.[3][4]

It ceased train operation in 1979, and lay abandoned until opening as a hotel in 1986. Union Station became a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in 2012 and completed a full renovation of all guest rooms and public spaces in 2016.[1][5][2] It became a member of Historic Hotels of America in 2015.[6]

History[edit]

Opened October 9, 1900, as a Louisville & Nashville Railroad station, Union Station had a long history before it shut down in October 1979.[1][7] When a new post office was built in Nashville in 1935, it was located adjacent to Union Station. A connecting passageway between the two was used to transport mail to and from trains for more than three decades.

The station reached peak usage during World War II when it served as the shipping-out point for tens of thousands of U.S. troops and was the site of a USO canteen. The station's decline started in the 1960s, amid the larger nationwide decline in passenger rail service. By the end of the decade, the L&N was the only railroad using the station. Only six trains per day stopped there, down from 16 in the late 1940s.

The primary passenger trains through Nashville over the years included:

Operators Named trains Western or northern destination Eastern or southern destination Year discontinued
Amtrak Floridian Chicago St. Petersburg, Florida
Miami sections separating in Wildwood, Florida
1979
Chicago and Eastern Illinois,
Louisville & Nashville
Dixie Flagler Chicago and alternate section originating in St. Louis Union Station Miami via Atlanta 1957
Chicago and Eastern Illinois,
Louisville & Nashville
Dixie Flyer Chicago and alternate section originating in St. Louis Union Station Miami via Atlanta 1965
Chicago and Eastern Illinois,
Louisville & Nashville
Dixieland Chicago and alternate section originating in St. Louis Union Station Miami via Atlanta 1957
Chicago and Eastern Illinois,
Louisville & Nashville
Georgian Chicago and alternate section originating in St. Louis Union Station Atlanta 1971
Louisville & Nashville,
Pennsylvania Railroad
Atlantic Coast Line
Florida East Coast
Florida Arrow Chicago Miami, Florida
Sarasota and St. Petersburg sections
1949
Louisville & Nashville Humming Bird Cincinnati, Ohio via Louisville New Orleans via Birmingham 1969
Louisville & Nashville Pan-American Cincinnati, Ohio via Louisville New Orleans via Birmingham 1971
Louisville & Nashville South Wind Chicago St. Petersburg
and Miami
1971
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis City of Memphis Memphis [terminus] 1958
Southern Railway,
Tennessee Central
Carolina Special [terminus] Goldsboro, North Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
ca. 1948

Decline[edit]

Amtrak took over intercity service on May 1, 1971. For much of 1971, Nashville was severed from the national rail network. On November 14, 1971 Amtrak began running a single route through Nashville, the Floridian, successor of the South Wind, with service once in each direction between Chicago and–via a split in Wildwood, Florida–St. Petersburg and Miami. However, the Floridian made its final run on October 9, 1979 after being plagued by rampant delays. The last train to call at Union Station was a southbound Floridian, ending over 120 years of intercity rail service in Nashville. Many of its open spaces were roped off, and its architectural features became largely a habitat for pigeons for several years.

After it closed, the station fell into the custody of the federal government's General Services Administration, which struggled for years to find a viable redevelopment plan as the station continued to decline. Nashville locals continuously rejected plans that did not include retaining the main terminal building.

Redevelopment[edit]

The site remained vacant until 1986 when a group of investors worked together to turn it into a luxury hotel with 125 luxury rooms and 12 suites.[5][7] The hotel plan was based on the use of "junk bond" financing, and the interest payments were so high the hotel required 90% occupancy at an average room rate of $135 per night to break even. This was not a supportable business model in the 1980s Nashville hotel market, and the project soon went bankrupt, calling the future of the station into question again. However, a new investor group bought the hotel in bankruptcy and was able to operate profitably without charging exorbitant room rates or requiring such a high occupancy rate due to the lower cost basis.

More problematic was the effort to find a modern use for the massive trainshed adjacent to the terminal building. Said to be the largest of its kind in the world at the time and an engineering masterpiece, the structure continued to deteriorate. Several suggested plans, including one to raise it up to street level (from the cut level) and turn it into a farmers' market, never came to fruition. A fire damaged the structure in 1996, and it was eventually demolished in late 2000 after several years of failing to come up with a viable preservation plan.[8]

Since the site's conversion to a hotel in 1986, Union Station has undergone several renovations. The first occurred in 2007 and cost $11 million. An additional $1.9 million of upgrades were made in 2012 when the hotel became a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel.[7] In 2014, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust bought Union Station Hotel for $52.3 million and hired Gobbell Hays Partners, Inc., to design renovations that ultimately cost $15.5 million. Sage Hospitality operates the hotel for Pebblebrook.[9][10]

Historical landmark[edit]

Along with the adjoining trainshed, Union Station became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. However, its historical landmark status was withdrawn in 2003 due to the fire damage to the trainshed that occurred in 1996 and ultimately led to the demolition of that part of the property.[8] Union Station remains on the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1969)[11] for its local relevance to the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee.

Architecture and interior[edit]

The station is an example of late-Victorian Romanesque Revival architecture and has high towers and turrets that are reminiscent of a castle.[1][6] The tower originally contained an early mechanical digital clock, but it was replaced by a traditional analog clock when replacement French silk drive belts became unavailable during World War I. The original bronze statue of the Roman god Mercury that sat on top of the tower was toppled in a storm in 1951 but was later replaced in the mid-1990s with a two-dimensional form painted in trompe-l'œil style to replicate the original. This second Mercury was destroyed in the 1998 downtown Nashville tornado but was also replaced.

The décor in the hotel includes features like three crystal chandeliers, Italian marble floors, wrought iron accents, oak-accented doors, and three limestone fireplaces, along with a 65-foot, barrel-vaulted, stained glass lobby ceiling.[2][1] The walls are covered with art, including numerous bas-relief sculptures. The two sculptures known as "Miss Nashville" and "Miss Louisville" are said to be images of two of the builder's daughters. Other bas-reliefs depict various historical modes of transportation.[2] Some of the station's original tile remains in the hotel's bar and restaurant area.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Where to Stay: Spotlight on Union Station Hotel Nashville - Atlanta Magazine". Atlanta Magazine. 2017-11-08. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  2. ^ a b c d "Historic train stations converted into hotels". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  3. ^ "Nashville's Newest Star – Nashville's Rail History" (PDF). Community Transportation Association of America. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  4. ^ Authority, Nashville Metro Transit. "Nashville MTA History". www.nashvillemta.org. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  5. ^ a b "Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection". Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  6. ^ a b "Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection – History". Historic Hotels of America. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  7. ^ a b c "Pebblebrook Hotel Trust Acquires Union Station Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee". Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  8. ^ a b "Nashville Union Station and Trainshed (Designation Withdrawn) | National Historic Landmarks Program". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  9. ^ "Union Station Hotel shows off renovations". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  10. ^ "Union Station Hotel Nashville Completes $15.5 Million Restoration Project | Travel Agent Central". www.travelagentcentral.com. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  11. ^ "National Register of Historical Places - TENNESSEE (TN), Davidson County". nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  12. ^ "Train(station)spotting: Nashville's Union Station Hotel | National Trust for Historic Preservation". Retrieved 2018-08-26.

External links[edit]

Media related to Union Station (Nashville) at Wikimedia Commons