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Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City

The Historical Commission announces the publication of Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City by the Metropolitan Historical Commission and Middle Tennessee chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

book cover of Nashville Architecture

Many years in the making, the 250-page book written by Tennessee State Historian Dr. Carroll Van West and published by the University of Tennessee Press, is available for sale at the Historical Commission and online at the website of the Metropolitan Historical Commission Foundation, The book will be available in bookstores and online September 30.

Dr. West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, examines over 250 properties in Nashville. Included are well-known buildings such as the Ryman Auditorium, the Hermitage Hotel, and Jubilee Hall at Fisk University, as well as many other property types from schools and churches to banks and post offices, from apartment and office buildings to plantations and cemeteries that show changes in the city over the course of the past 200 years. Over 150 maps and photographs illustrate Nashville’s transformation into the cosmopolitan city that it is today.

Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City follows earlier publications by both the Historical Commission and AIA Middle Tennessee on the subjects of architecture, the history of Nashville, and urban planning. This guidebook is the result of the natural affinity between the two groups.

In 1974, the Historical Commission published Nashville: A Short History and Selected Buildings, the first look at more than the grand structures. Reflecting a national awareness that the view of what and whose history was significant had been too limited, the book included neighborhoods, modest commercial and industrial structures, rural stone bridges, all manner of civic buildings – schools, fire halls, branch libraries – and all styles and periods. In the words of the commission chair at the time, Margaret Lindsley Warden, it was a guide to “the typical as well as the superlative,” and it raised awareness that Nashville had a diverse richness that had not been appreciated. The book was the first published comprehensive inventory of the city’s architectural fabric and the history that wove it together.

AIA Middle Tennessee added to that base of knowledge with the publication in 1986 of Notable Nashville Architecture 1930-1980. With its focus on 20th century buildings and their architects and including knowledgeable criticism, the level of architectural awareness was raised significantly. Nashville is far more conscious now of historic preservation, architecture, and urban design, thanks in large part to the design and preservation communities.

Nashville Architecture: A Guide to the City aims to be the successor to both earlier books in its broad scope and comprehensive nature, yet small enough to store in one’s car. In bringing the goal to fruition, the combined research was given to Dr. West, who added his own investigations and stock of knowledge about Nashville to produce the manuscript. The featured structures range from the late 18th century to the early 21st and are illustrated in over 150 photographs.

According to the book’s Foreword, “Our rich Nashville history has and we hope always will be told by our city’s wonderful architecture and built environment. We believe that architecture extends beyond image making; it affects and influences our quality of life. Architecture is quite simply about people and their need for shelter, identity, inspiration, and sense of being.”

Books purchased through the Historical Commission and the Metropolitan Historical Commission Foundation benefit the Foundation and, in turn, the Historical and Historic Zoning Commissions. The Metropolitan Historical Commission Foundation is a non-profit organization created to support the work of the Historical and Historic Zoning Commissions. The Foundation raises and distributes funds to supplement the city agency’s budget for special projects, said Ann Eaden, chair of the Foundation Board. Other members are Joan Armour, Michael Emrick, Elizabeth Mayhall, Dr. Reavis Mitchell, Jeff Ockerman, Ann Roberts, Laura Rost, and Steve Sirls.