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Discover the 21c Museum Hotel Nashville by MGallery, which was once the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company Building.

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21c Museum Hotel Nashville by MGallery, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019, dates back to 1900.

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The 21c Museum Hotel Nashville by MGallery was originally the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company Building for many years. The company first appeared in the 1890s, when J.M. Gray and his son merged their prominent local business together with that of brothers J.H. Dudley and R.M. Dudley. Already established hardware retailers in Nashville, the Grays and Dudleys desired to elevate their prosperity to new heights by uniting their economic endeavors in one pursuit. As such, the group decided to erect a new building from which they could market their heavily sought-after goods. Selecting a location near the city’s bustling Bank Alley, the men constructed a beautiful seven-story brick structure for their new business. The group hired the local firm Thompson, Gibel, & Asmus to create the building’s architecture, which they modeled in the likeness of the French Beaux-Arts. When the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company debuted in 1900, it quickly emerged as one of the American South’s preeminent hardware retailers. The company specialized in selling its own high-quality manufacturing tools that it manufactured from several factories situated around Nashville. The business offered more than just hardware. Within a decade of opening, its catalog featured a variety of products ranging from clocks to sterling silverware. Everything from tricycles, doll carriages—even wagons—appeared in the company’s storefront. The popularity of its wares became so significant that many traveling salesmen soon began selling the company’s goods throughout the nation. Despite its success, the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company eventually moved out of its building along Second Avenue in 1942 and moved in to a much larger location. And while the company continued to experience great fortune, the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company Building gradually lost its luster. The erstwhile warehouse subsequently fulfilled a number of different functions for the remainder of the century. When 21c Museum Hotels acquired the site during the 2010s, it restored the building to its former glory. Fully renovated, the historic Gray & Dudley Hardware Company Building is now the glamorous 21c Museum Hotel Nashville by MGallery. Since 2017, the building has operated as both a fantastic boutique hotel and a terrific art gallery filled with the finest contemporary artwork. The 21c Museum Hotel Nashville by MGallery has also been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019.

  • About the Location +

    Centuries before the first white settlers crossed the Appalachian Mountains, several famous Native American tribes had passed through the area. Indians such as the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, and the Shawnee all occupied the local banks of the Cumberland River at different points in time. French-Canadian fur traders then eventually traveled to the region in the 1710s, establishing a remote outpost that they named “French Lick.” (Not to be confused with French Lick, Indiana). Settlement by individuals of European origin remained sparse until the eve of the American Revolution, when a North Carolinian jurist named Richard Henderson formally acquired most of the locale in 1775. He had specifically been given the territory from the Cherokee through the historic Transylvania Purchase. While Henderson never lived in the area, he largely directed its inhabitation. Four years after obtaining the land, Henderson sent a party led by James Robertson to investigate the space bordering both sides of the river. Camping in French Lick, they were soon reinforced by another group under the direction of John Donelson. Together, the settlers cleared the wilderness around the outpost and erected a log stockade that they called “Fort Nashborough.” They derived its name from General Francis Nash, who had led the famous 1st North Carolina Regiment during the American Revolutionary War. Mortally wounded at the Battle of Germantown, Nash had since become a national symbol for the Patriot cause.

    Over time, a small community formed around the wooden fortress. To maintain order among the village’s population, Richard Henderson created the Cumberland Compact—the first articles of self-governance used to administer the community. At the time of its passing, Fort Nashborough was actually a part of North Carolina. But when nearby pioneers in the mountains failed to create the separate State of Franklin, North Carolina decided to surrender its Trans-Appalachian domain to the federal government. As such, Fort Nashborough became a part of the Territory of Tennessee, which formally joined the Union as a state in 1796. The state legislature subsequently charted the community as the “City of Nashville” approximately a decade later. Nashville quickly emerged as the economic and political hub for the middle of Tennessee. It specifically morphed into a vibrant river trading port, as well as an industrious manufacturing center. Railroads further augmented its prosperity, as it allowed for more goods and laborers to flow easily into the city. Plantations fueled by slave labor surrounded Nashville, as well, which primarily grew staple crops like cotton and tobacco. Some of those estates grew to be very large, including U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s plantation “The Hermitage.” As such, Nashville had become Tennessee’s most important community by the mid-19th century. The Tennessee General Assembly even selected the city to serve as the state’s capitol in 1843. It then hired architect William Strickland to design the new state capitol building, which is still in use today!

    Nashville’s socioeconomic importance to Tennessee made it a primary target for Union armies when the state sided with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Occupied in February of 1862 by northern troops, Nashville was the first Confederate capital captured in the conflict. The Tennessee General Assembly and the state governor—Isham G. Harris—quickly fled the city for Memphis. Afterward, President Abraham Lincoln used Nashville as the headquarters for his representatives in the state, specifically Military Governor Andrew Johnson. Nevertheless, rebel guerillas continuously harried the federal soldiers inside Nashville, harassing their lines of supply and communication. The culmination of the Confederate attacks around the city culminated at the end of 1864 with the Battle of Nashville. The climax of the brief—yet fierce—Franklin—Nashville Campaign, the fight was a desperate bid by the rebels to disrupt Union logistics in the Deep South. After chasing its enemy for months, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John B. Hood seemingly pinned Major General George H. Thomas’ combined Union force in Nashville. Hoping to lure the federals out of their fortifications, Hood’s men patiently waited outside the city for close to two weeks. On December 15, the Union garrison finally struck, assailing both flanks of the Confederate line. While Thomas’ diversionary assault on the right flank proved to be ineffective, the main thrust against the left shattered the rebel line in a torrent of brutal hand-to-hand fighting. Hood withdrew a few miles to the south that night, with Thomas in hot pursuit. When fighting resumed the following day, the northern soldiers completely routed Hood’s Army of Tennessee.

    The end of the Civil War brought about the collapse of slavery and the antebellum economic system that had kept it afloat. Despite enjoying a brief period of freedom in the immediate wake of the conflict, African Americans in Nashville endured racial discrimination that barred them from receiving equal citizenship rights. Known as “Jim Crow,” the laws lasted for decades until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s overthrew them. The city itself was at the forefront of the fight to confront racial segregation, with hundreds of local activists demonstrating across the city. Celebrated today as the “Nashville Sit-ins,’ they largely protested to desegregate businesses in Nashville. Some of the activists—including the late John Lewis—went on the form the historic Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee shortly thereafter. Nashville also grew exponentially as a city, thanks in large part to the popularity of its river wharves and train depots. Thousands of people subsequently moved to Nashville. Dozens of new educational institutions opened in the city, too, reinforcing Nashville’s moniker as the “Athens of the South.” One such facility to open was the great Vanderbilt University. Founded in 1873 thanks to the financing of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, the university has since grown into a massive, internationally recognized research institute. Another prolific schools founded at the time included Fisk University, which became one of the most prestigious black institutions of higher education in the nation. Nashville’s economy continued to expand and diversify, with the fields of agriculture and manufacturing serving as the major local industries. The city specifically became a hotbed for the production of water heaters, appliances, and automobiles in the 20th century. As the decades progressed, though, education, finance, and health care emerged with equal importance to Nashville’s modern economy.

    Music soon became Nashville’s most important export. Starting with the regular live broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry in 1925, Nashville underwent a rapid transformation into the “Music City” that many know and love today. Country music, in particular, became part of the city’s cultural identity, as people across America equated Nashville with the Grand Ole Opry and its stars. Originally hosted from the Ryman Auditorium, countless country music legends performed on the show at one point or another. Among the famous musicians to sing on the Grand Ole Opry included Gene Autry, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, and Hank Williams. The national infatuation with the Grand Ole Opry—and country music in general—exploded in the decades following World War II, giving rise to the commercialization of the genre as a whole. Many new prolific record labels flourished in Nashville as a result, such as the likes of Mercury, Capitol Records, and RCA. Concentrated in an area of town called “Music Row,” those recording studios—primarily RCA’s Studio B—were largely responsible for creating a sub-type of country music known as the “Nashville Sound.” New generations of musicians also started flocking to the city in search of an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Among the performers to arrive in Nashville included the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, and Buck Owens. Country music has since become one of the most beloved cultural art forms in the United States. It is celebrated all over Nashville today, particularly in the world-renowned Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to this fascinating institution.


  • About the Architecture +

    When the Gray and Dudley families decided to construct the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company Building back during the 1890s, they had hired the local architectural firm Thompson, Gibel, & Asmus to craft its design. Thompson, Gilbel, & Asmus were already well respected throughout Tennessee, having crafted the appearance of such structures like a brilliant $30,000 training school in the community of Lebanon. The 21c Museum Hotel Nashville displays some of the finest Beaux-Arts-style architecture in all of Nashville. Beaux-Arts-style architecture itself became widely popular around the dawn of the 20th century. This beautiful architectural form originally began at an art school in Paris known as the École des Beaux-Arts during the 1830s. There was much resistance to the Neoclassism of the day among French artists, who yearned for the intellectual freedom to pursue less rigid design aesthetics. Four instructors in particular were responsible for establishing the movement: Joseph-Louis Duc, Félix Duban, Henri Labrouste, and Léon Vaudoyer. The training that these instructors created involved fusing architectural elements from several earlier styles, including Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance, ad Baroque. As such, a typical building created with Beaux-Arts-inspired designs would feature a rusticated first story, followed by several more simplistic ones. A flat roof would then top the structure. Symmetry became the defining character, with every building’s layout featuring such elements like balustrades, pilasters, and cartouches. Sculptures and other carvings were commonplace throughout the design, too. Beaux-Arts only found a receptive audience in France and the United States though, as most other architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles. American architects in particular made great use of the style, such as the ones employed by Thompson, Gibel & Asmus. A few of them even inspired their own variants of the Beaux Arts, including the popular “First Chicago School” design principles that defined many of the skyscrapers that appeared in places like Chicago starting in the 1880s.


  • Art Collection +

    Specially commissioned site-specific works by some of the contemporary art world's most exciting artists can be found throughout 21c Museum Hotel Nashville. As visitors walk towards the public restrooms off the lobby, they will see a central screen located at the end of the corridor: this is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Bilateral Time Slicer Intermix, a biometric tracking system that finds the axis of symmetry of visitors using face detection. When the axis is found to be in an almost vertical orientation, the computer splits the live camera image into two slices. With each new participant, time slices are recorded and pushed aside. When no one is viewing the work, the slices close and rejoin creating a procession of past recordings. The work was inspired by time-lapse sculptures and masks from multiple ancient traditions (Aztec three-faced masks, the avatars of Vishnu), as well as modern and contemporary art from Europe, Asia, and the Americas (Duchamp, Balla, Minujín, Schatz, Kanemaki). As in the Aztec three-faced mask, the central strip corresponds to the younger, most recent portrait, whereas the farthest one to the sides represents the oldest portrait. Once inside the restroom, another screen shows the time slices recorded from recent participants shuffled and remixed, so that a wide variety of pairings are shown, creating hybrid bilateral portraits of people who have participated.

    One of three artist experience suites at 21c Nashville, Adrian Greniers The Ouroboros Mosquito, is an immersive, art-filled experience. This multimedia, site-specific installation of photographs, prints, and video from the film Teenage Paparazzo explores the intersection of celebrity and identity. Grenier’s installation includes a selection of artworks created in conjunction or in relationship to the film, made both by himself and other artists and collaborators. A series of films and videos, including Teenage Paparazzo, are also available on a dedicated monitor in the suite. Another artist suite by Los Angeles-based visual artist, musician, and videographer, Yung Jake, is designed with custom digital wallpaper and features three of his paintings that combine found objects, painting, and digital imagery. The work reflects the intersection of popular culture, technology, and identity today. Yung Jake identifies himself as “established on the Internet in 2011” and is best known for his rap videos that integrate the worlds of hip-hop, technology, social media, and contemporary art. This unique art experience offers viewers an immersive experience created by a truly 21st-century imagination.

    Sanctuary 21c is a collaboration between painter Sebastiaan Bremer and musician-composer Josephine Wiggs, who wanted to make a space for living and creating. Bremer is best known for his paintings using archival family photographs; Wiggs is the bass player in the band The Breeders. In the mid-1990s the two shared a loft in Chelsea, New York City – a space which was sparsely furnished with items found on the street, where the ambiance was created by use of a yellow light bulb above the kitchen sink and a red one in the shower. For 21c Nashville, Bremer designed a space that combined components of a music recording studio with antique mirrors, tilework, urban signage, as well as his own artwork. The combination makes Sanctuary 21c break down the barriers between art and music, art and life, and artist and audience, as guests become participants, exploring self-expression, experimentation, and artistic collaboration. In furnishing and arranging the rooms, Bremer’s style is eclectic, inclusive, egalitarian, tempered by Wiggs’s more minimal sensibility. In the bedroom/painting room are paints and inks from Bremer’s Brooklyn studio. Instruments from Wiggs’s home studio are installed in the living room/music room.

    Gray & Dudley, the restaurant and lounge at 21c Nashville, was named for the hardware store that once occupied the site. Paying homage to the building’s past life as the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company, the re-imagined restaurant and lounge space embraces and celebrates high and low, new and old. Adjacent museum galleries exhibiting contemporary art foster exploration over cocktails or following a meal filled with heartfelt hospitality. Inside of the restaurant, Beth Cavener’s ceramic sculptures combine human and animal traits in both form and subject matter. The multihued figures in Cavener’s Emotions series are named for the four “humours,” the Greco-Roman theory that physical health and personality are determined by the relative balance of bodily fluids: the blood-red The Sanguine is wound tight with energy, poised for activity; The Melancholic is pale, weighed down in thought or sorrow; the yellow The Choleric is posed in motion, expressing a youthful energy; hung from its hips and looking impassively outward, The Phlegmatic’s pale blue features suggest the winter of age. In each, the intricate details of facial features, bodily form, color, and the lines delineating fur, muscle, and bone express and elicit a range of human emotions and experiences. Reflecting on her fascination with animal and human behavior, the artist says that since childhood she has learned “to read meaning in the subtler signs; a look, the way one holds one’s hands, the tightening of muscles in the shoulders, the incline of the head, the rhythm of a walk, and the slightest unconscious gestures.” Old or young, spry or limp, aggressive or acquiescent, taunting or fearful, Cavener’s stoneware Menagerie explores “those uncomfortable, awkward edges between animal and human….Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures are engaged with the subjects of fear, apathy, violence and powerlessness. There is something conscious and knowing captured in their gestures and expressions, both an invitation and a rebuke.”

    Shelley Reed’s monumental, eleven-panel painting, In Dubious Battle, depicts an allegorical narrative, casting animals from art historical paintings as the characters in an unfolding drama that ends in an epic struggle between dogs, tigers, lions, and leopards. By painting in shades of grey, black, and white, Reed distills the scene and unifies the image by focusing on the heightened emotion between the animals. The artist spent years and thousands of hours painting excerpts and details from Old Master European paintings, often working from paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and from reproductions in art history books. Reed was fascinated by these animals; painted before the invention of photography, artists painted animals from memory, the stories from other people, or their imaginations. The resulting images, often fantastical renderings, were frequently very different from reality. In Dubious Battle is a mash-up of these details and passages, appropriations from twenty-three different artists including Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Alexandre-François Desportes, Melchior d’Hondecoeter, and George Stubbs, among others. While there are hints of human presence—the scenes take place within buildings, on top of drapery, and near guns, instruments, baskets of fruit, vases, and bottles—they emphasize the absence of people.