Capital and river port of Tennessee, Davidson County, on the Cumberland River; population (2000 est) 545,500. It is a banking and commercial centre, a major processing point for timber and agricultural produce, and has large car-manufacturing, printing, music-publishing, and recording industries.
History The area was originally inhabited by Mississippian groups from 1000–1400, and the first Europeans to arrive in the area were French traders in 1717. Nashville was settled in 1779 and was named Fort Nashborough, after Francis Nash, a general in the American Revolution. It became a town in 1780. It was renamed Nashville in 1784 and was made a city in 1806, and state capital in 1843. Steamboat services from the city started in 1818 and the railway arrived in 1854. Nashville was taken by the Union during the Civil War in 1862 and was the site of a Confederate defeat at the Battle of Nashville, the last battle of the Civil War, in 1864. In 1963, it was officially renamed Nashville–Davidson City.
Industries Nashville is the capital of country music and birthplace of the ‘Nashville sound’, with many music publishers and recording studios. First aired in 1925, Grand Ole Opry, the oldest radio show in the USA, is now broadcast from the world's largest studio, in the Opryland USA theme park. Most of the Bibles in the USA are printed in Nashville, and it is the headquarters of the United Methodist Publishing House, the United Methodist Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention. There are also insurance and banking industries.
Features The city has 127 entries on the National Register of Historic places including the State Capitol (1844). Early sites include Fort Nashborough, a recreation of the 1779 log fort of the first settlers; and Travellers Rest, a 1792 mansion. The Historic Second Avenue Business District contains numerous examples of 19th century architecture. The Downtown Presbyterian Church, built in the Egyptian Revival style, dates from 1857; Belmont Mansion is an Italianate 1850s villa; and the Belle Meade Mansion (1853), a Greek Revival house and horse-breeding estate, is the former site of the Iroquois, the oldest amateur steeplechase in the USA. The Andrew Jackson Center is housed in the Hermitage, the mansion and burial place of US president Andrew Jackson. The city was also the home of US president James Polk.
Nashville is sometimes referred to as the ‘Athens of the South’; an exact replica of the Parthenon, dating from 1897, stands in Centennial Park. It is also know as the ‘buckle of the Bible belt’ and ‘Music City USA’. Monuments of the music business include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, RCA Studio B, and the Ryman Auditorium and Museum (home of Grand Ole Opry 1943–74). Educational institutions include Fisk University (1866), Vanderbilt University (1873), Tennessee State University (1912), and Belmont University (1991; originally Belmont College). The Tennessee Botanical Gardens are located at Cheekwood. The city is also home to the Nashville Toy Museum, the Grand Ole Opry Museum, and the US country music singer Hank Williams Jnr Museum.
Natural disasters Nashville was damaged by two tornadoes on 16 April 1998 and became one of the few US cities to ever have its downtown area directly hit. Nobody was killed, but about 330 commercial buildings were damaged in the four-minute attack of winds up to 241 kph/150 mph.