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Discover the illustrious history of The Hermitage Hotel, which played an integral role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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The Hermitage Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996, dates back to 1910.


The Hermitage Hotel

The Hermitage Hotel’s status as a cherished landmark in downtown Nashville has been earned by its dedicated employees, and its story has been created by thousands of events and millions of guests served over more than a century of he city’s history.


Named after former U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s nearby estate, The Hermitage Hotel has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1996. For years, “Meet Me at The Hermitage” has been a popular catch phrase spoken among local Nashvillians, as the hotel has been a cherished landmark for more than a century. Construction on this magnificent historic structure began in 1908, when a group of concerned locals led by the Nashville Board of Trade decided to construct a luxurious hotel in downtown Nashville. Hiring the renowned architect James Edwin Ruthven Carpenter, the investors ultimately spent more than a million dollars on the project. In just two years, Carpenter had erected a stunning Beaux-Arts-style hotel that stood ten stories tall. On opening night—September 17, 1910—countless luminaries from the greater Nashville area flooded into The Hermitage Hotel. A lavish feast awaited all who stepped inside, as did the famous orchestra that played at the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Advertised as being “fireproof, noise-proof, and dust-proof,” the hotel’s architecture and amenities also stunned the guests. Every guestroom contained its own plumbing and bathroom, while the dining room possessed Circassian walnut paneling. The top floor of the hotel featured a gorgeous assembly hall and the basement held a beautiful German-styled rathskeller called the “Grill Room.” But the lobby was the most impressive aspect of all. From the street, a grand staircase led patrons into the golden-hued space with its impressive array of decorative carvings. Glorious Tennessee marble adorned the lobby floors and Italian marble graced its soaring columns. A spectacular skylight rested atop the structure, which had beautiful panels of ornate painted glass.

Within a matter of months, The Hermitage Hotel had quickly established itself as one of the most exclusive holiday destinations in the entire city. It soon became of special interest to politicians in both Tennessee and abroad. Governors lived inside the building’s suites before they took office, while state legislators regularly met with reporters in the front lobby. The restaurant itself was a favorite haunt for lobbyists, who stalked the space for state officials in order to make clandestine deals. Several presidential visits transpired at The Hermitage Hotel, as well! President William Howard Taft began the tradition when he attended a banquet held in his honor in 1911. In subsequent years, U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ricard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all traveled to the building at one point or another. Yet, the single greatest political event to ever transpire within The Hermitage Hotel involved the statewide ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The hotel itself specifically served as the headquarters for the pro and anti-suffrage causes led by Carrie Chapman Catt and Josephine Pearson, respectively. Both sides confronted one another constantly, as state legislators debated the amendment’s passage just a few moments away at the Tennessee State Capitol. The lobbying became so intense that the pro and anti-suffrage forces started shouting at one another and even broke out into fights. Nevertheless, Catt and her pro-suffrage allies managed to convince enough state legislators to pass the law that August. (For more on the hotel’s involvement with the 19th Amendment, please see the Famous Historical Events and Women in History sections further below.)

The Hermitage Hotel has served as the temporary home for countless celebrities, too. Famous military heroes—such as Sergeant Alvin York and Lieutenant Audie Murphy—have been honored at hotel. Renowned athletes have also chosen to stay at the building when passing through Nashville, including the likes of New York Yankees great Babe Ruth and World Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey. Dozens of movies stars have also graced the hotel with their presence. Charlie Chaplin once approached the front desk carrying his iconic custard pie prop, after an adoring fan had given him the dish during a fundraising event at the Ryman Auditorium. Vivian Leigh and her husband, Laurence Olivier, had a limited layover at the hotel when their plane was grounded by bad weather. Spencer Tracey also stopped by on route to Florida to appear in the movie, The Yearling. And Gloria Swanson visited when she showcased a clothing line at three separate fashion shows! Yet, it was Nashville’s evolving population of world-renowned musicians who stayed the most frequently. The Hermitage Hotel hosted all of the country music greats who appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, such as Hank Williams, Gene Autry, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash. But the hotel had also developed its own musical connections, as well. The Country Music Association itself was officiated for the first time inside The Hermitage Hotel, having been formed from the business’ annual D.J. conventions of the 1950s. And its own personal orchestra—led by the famed Francis Craig—had grown in prominence throughout the first half of the 20th century. Craig even created the smash hit “Near You” in the Grill Room toward the end of his tenure as the orchestra’s band leader. In fact, Craig had even scribbled the lyrics of the song on the back of one of the venue’s menus! The song quickly rose to become the bestselling single of 1947, making Francis Craig a household name.

Following a gradual fall from grace in the mid-20th century, The Hermitage Hotel closed its doors to an uncertain fate. Thankfully, local preservationists with Historic Nashville united with Mayor Richard Fulton to save the historic structure from potential demolition. The group invested heavily into restoring The Hermitage Hotel back to its former glory. After four years of construction work, the hotel reopened to great acclaim on March 6, 1981. The era of the 1980s ushered in a new renaissance for the business, with prominent people like Roy Rogers, Red Skelton, and Dolly Parton visiting the building shortly after its rebirth. Even Rudolf Wanderone—the legendary pool player known as “Minnesota Fats”—lived at The Hermitage Hotel for more than six years! Nevertheless, the hotel underwent a period of fluid ownership before Historic Hotels of Nashville acquired the site in 2000. It subsequently initiated its own series of extensive renovations to the guestrooms and public areas, which lasted for close to three years. The Hermitage Hotel has since received numerous accolades for its outstanding service, including a coveted Five Diamond rating by the American Automobile Association. It also has earned the praise of Forbes magazine, obtaining a five-star score from the company in 2008, and was received an Award of Excellence for Best City Center Historic Hotel in 2019. More recently in 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior identified The Hermitage Hotel as a National Historic Landmark—the highest degree of federal recognition that a historic structure can receive from Washington. According to the agency: “The 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote, and the Hermitage Hotel was a critical centerpiece for the women’s suffrage movement as the hotel was used as a headquarters by suffragists to secure Tennessee’s ratification.”

  • 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 an 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. (Many of those individuals even stayed at The Hermitage Hotel!) 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 +

    Led by the city’s Board of Trade, local Nashvillians rallied together to raise an initial $300,000 dollars-worth of stock to erect The Hermitage Hotel. By the time the project finished, though, the investors had spent several hundred more on the project. Locals downtown watched in utter awe as architect James Edwin Ruthven Carpenter developed what became Nashville’s third skyscraper. Carpenter spared no effort with his design, using the principles that he had learned while studying abroad at the celebrated École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Guestrooms featured mahogany paneling and offered a wealth of cutting-edge amenities like running ice water, a telephone, and even a private bath. The dining room—now the Grand Ballroom—contained Circassian walnut craftsmanship as well as several ornate chandeliers. Carpenter also constructed a spectacular assembly hall on the top floor of The Hermitage Hotel, designed to host some of the most extravagant parties in all of Nashville. Further below on the eighth floor, he and his staff dedicated a few sample rooms for traveling salesmen to exhibit their goods. This unique commercial aspect of the hotel continued elsewhere on the grounds, as a space for various shops opened along the street. In the basement, Carpenter developed a German-styled rathskeller called the “Grill Room,” which had a vaulted ceiling supported by several massive columns. (Its adjacent taproom is known today as the Oak Bar.) A men’s barber shop provided convenient service, and behind the men’s room, a small exercise room existed with optional showers for guests.

    Perhaps the greatest space in the entire building was the central lobby. Glorious Tennessee marble adorned the lobby floors, while Italian marble graced its soaring columns. Above the space sat a magnificent painted glass skylight, which functioned as the lobby’s crown jewel. Some of the panels displayed amazing detail, including mythological figures like Roman god Janus. Carpenter supported the entire structure with its own vaulted ceiling that was held up by several magnificent columns. The columns themselves abounded with many wonderful decorative elements. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the structures featured:

    • “Ionic voluted capitals with egg and tongue molding and an abacus with leaf and tongue enrichment [placed upon] large, fluteless, terra-cotta coupled columns. An entablature of terra-cotta string moldings (adorned with leaf and tongue and egg and tongue enrichment and dentil molding with fillets) and a festoon and acanthus leaf frieze [was] above the coupled Ionic columns. Smaller, polished granite coupled columns, with Corinthian capitals, [supported] the architrave of the arched window [and several] openings.”

    Yet, those same details spread throughout the ceiling of the lobby, as well. For instance, the egg and dart motifs continued near the fascia of the skylight, as did some fantastic dentil molding. Additional motifs—including cherubs, plant life, and the fleur-de-lis—appeared commonly in other areas of the lobby. A grand ladies entrance also resided along neighboring Union Street. It featured marble-clad hallways that led directly to such places like the loggia, the main dining room, and the various parlors inside the mezzanine that overlooked the lobby.

    Image of Glass Panel Depicting the Roman God Janus, The Hermitage Hotel, 1908, Historic Hotels of America, in Nashville, Tennessee.

    The Hermitage Hotel itself displays a wonderful blend of Beaux-Arts style architecture, which became widely popular in Gilded Age America. 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 Western architects at the time gravitated toward British design principles.

  • Famous Historic Events +

    Ratification of the 19th Amendment (1920): By the summer of 1920, 35 states across the Union had ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If passed, the amendment would have granted women the right to vote by outlawing any practice that would disenfranchise a person based on their sex. Yet, the law remained in limbo as 13 state legislatures did not yet support the amendment. In order for any constitutional amendment to become federal law, both chambers of Congress must pass the proposed legislation by a two-thirds majority. Then, it must pass in two-thirds of the states before returning for ratification in Washington. As there were only 48 states in the Union at the time (Alaska and Hawaii would not join until 1959), the amendment was one state short of passing. Fortunately, two of the 13 states—Tennessee and North Carolina—had yet to vote for the amendment and were effectively undecided. Suffragists around the country started assessing which one would most likely to swing in favor of the law and believed that Tennessee was their best bet. Carrie Chapman Catt—the President of the National American Women Suffrage Association—made the determination herself, having arrived in the state to ascertain the situation that July. Moving into Suite 309 of The Hermitage Hotel, she quickly began strategizing with local suffragist leaders like Catherine Talty Kenny, Anne Crawford Milton, Katherine B. Warner, Lizzie Crozier French, and Anne Dallas Dudley of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association. (Dudley was also serving as the Vice President for the NAWSA, so she and Catt were well acquainted.) The group were later joined by reinforcements from the National Women’s Party, which included the influential Sue Shelton White. While the local suffragists attempted to sway public opinion to back the amendment, Catt and her colleagues from the National Women’s Party frequently met with their allies in the state government at the hotel. At one point, Governor Albert Houston Roberts even answered Catt’s call to speak with her personally.

    But on the same day that Catt arrived at The Hermitage Hotel, so too did one of her nemeses—the antisuffragist Josephine Pearson. Booking a suite on the eighth floor, Pearson and her political acolytes started their own lobbying campaign against the bill. People in Pearson’s camp believed that most women did not want the vote. Furthermore, they argued that a fundamental difference between men and women existed, in which women were pure and not suited for the world of politics. Some also hailed from elite families and feared that enhanced voting rights would allow for an unhealthy redistribution of power in society. This was particularly true for affluent southern whites, who ardently believed that the amendment would undermine the South’s racist Jim Crow policies. Soon enough, the red rose lapels on the shirts of Pearson’s antisuffragists became just as common in The Hermitage Hotel as Catt’s yellow roses. The campaigning exerted by both sides was tireless over the next six weeks, as the state legislature furiously debated the 19th Amendment. So many political operatives traveled to The Hermitage Hotel that some in Nashville took to calling it the “third house” of Tennessee’s congress. Josephine Pearson and her “Antis” eventually reserved the building’s mezzanine—as well as several rooms on the first floor—to serve as their main headquarters. At one point, the anti-suffragists even opened a speakeasy in order to court both pro and anti-suffrage legislators. (Prohibition had just been passed with the 18th Amendment a year prior). Known informally as the “Jack Daniel’s Suite,” the men became more receptive to their arguments the more they drank. Some even sauntered down the halls singing the anti-suffragist’s anthem, “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” once the speakeasy had closed for the night.

    As the time for the vote in the state legislature came closer, the atmosphere in The Hermitage Hotel grew incredibly tense. Shouting and fistfights became more frequent among Catt and Pearson’s supporters. Carrie Chapman Catt started to suspect that her phone in Suite 309 had been tapped, while several of her fellow pro-suffragists were spied upon by strange-looking men. Voting began on August 18. While the amendment passed the Tennessee Senate, many worried that it would die in the state’s divided House of Representatives. Predictions were so close that neither side felt that they had enough votes to win. Sure enough, the first round of voting in the House resulted in a deadlock. But during the second round of voting, a 24-year-old representative named Harry T. Burn—who had previously shown support for Pearson’s anti-suffragists—decided to change his vote to “aye.” It turned out that Burn had been inspired by his mother, who had written him a letter that said: “Hurrah and vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Ms. Catt.” Burn’s change of heart tipped the scales in the suffragists favor, allowing the amendment to pass 49 to 47. A pandemonium erupted in the chamber and Burn was whisked away by a bodyguard to The Hermitage Hotel. Singing and wild cheers filled the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol from the supporters who had fought so hard for the 19th Amendment’s ratification. After surging toward the Governor’s Mansion, the pro-suffragists flocked to The Hermitage Hotel to give Carrie Chapman Catt the terrific news. Looking onto the crowd with a smile, she had realized that the 19th Amendment had finally become a national law. Some 27 million women now had the right to vote! (It’s important to note that white women were the primary beneficiaries of the 19th Amendment. It would take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for minorities—especially black women—to receive the same basic benefits universally throughout the country.)

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Al Capone, legendary mob boss of the Chicago Outfit who many knew as “Scarface.”

    Al Jolson, actor and comedian known for starring in the first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer.

    Art Linkletter, radio personality remembered for his shows House Party and People Are Funny.

    Audie Murphy, famous World War II Medal of Honor recipient and actor who portrayed himself in To Hell and Back.

    Barbara Eden, actress best remembered for her role in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.

    Barbara Mandrell, country music musician known for such singles as “Sleeping in a Double Bed,” “Years,” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.”

    Benny Goodman, jazz clarinetist and band leader remembered to history as the “King of Swing.”

    Bette Davis, actress known for her roles in All About Eve, Jezebel, and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

    Bette Midler, singer and actress who has earned numerous accolades, including four Golden Globe Awards and three Grammy Awards.

    Bill Anderson, country music musician known for such singles as “I Love You Drops,” “Mama Sang a Song,” and “Still.”

    Billy Graham, Baptist minister and spiritual leader to every U.S. President from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.

    Bing Crosby, singer and actor known for his roles in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s.

    Bob Chester, jazz and pop band leader, as well as a renowned tenor saxophonist.

    Brenda Lee, singer best remembered for such singles as “I’m Sorry” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

    Byron Nelson, winner of five major golf championships that include the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, and the U.S. Open.

    Carol Channing, actress remembered for her roles in such films like Thoroughly Modern Millie¸ The First Traveling Saleslady, and Skidoo.

    Cesar Romero, best remembered for his role as the Joker in the Batman live action television series.

    Charlie Chaplin, renowned actor known for his silent roles in The Kid and A Woman of Paris.

    Charlton Heston, actor known for his roles in such movies like Ben-Hur, El Cid, and Planet of the Apes.

    Chet Atkins, country music musician best remembered today as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman.”

    Conway Twitty, country music musician known for such singles like “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” “That’s My Job,” and “Hello Darlin’.”

    Dan Seals, country music musician known for such singles as “Meet Me in Montana,” “Bop,” and “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).”

    Dinah Shore, actress and singer remembered for her top-charting singles in the 1940s, as well as The Dinah Shore Show.

    Doris Day, actress and singer remembers for her roles in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Pillow Talk, and Calamity Jane.

    Dorothy Day, journalist and social activist who helped found the Catholic Worker Movement.

    Elvis Presley, legendary rock star remembered to history as the “King of Rock and Roll.”

    Enrico Caruso, renowned Italian operatic tenor. 

    Ernest Tubb, country music musician remembered to history as the “Texas Troubadour.”

    Fess Parker, actor best remembered for his portrayal of Davy Crocket in the television series Davy Crockett.

    Francis Craig, big band leader best remembered for such singles as “Near Your” and “Dynamite.”

    Gene Autry, singer and actor known for such roles in The Phantom Empire, In Old Santa Fe, and The Old Corral.

    George Beverly Shea, remembered today as one of America’s best gospel singers.

    George Lindsey, actor best remembered for his roles on Mayberry R.F.D., Hee-Haw, and The Andy Griffith Show.

    Giovanni Martinelli, renowned Italian operatic tenor who spent years performing at the Metropolitan Opera.

    Glen Campbell, country music musician known for such singles like “Galveston,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and “Wichita Lineman.”

    Glenn Gray, jazz saxophonist and leader of the Casa Loma Orchestra.

    Gloria Swanson, actress known for her roles in such films like Sunset Boulevard, Sadie Thompson, and Queen Kelly.

    Grace Moore, operatic soprano and actress best remembered as the “Tennessee Nightingale.”

    Greta Garbo, actress known for her roles in Grand Hotel, Romance, and Anna Christie. 

    Guy Lombardo, bandleader and violinist who sold anywhere between 100 and 300 million records worldwide.

    Hank Snow, country music musician known for such singles like “I’m Moving On” and “The Golden Rocket.”

    Hank Williams, country music musician regarded as one of the most influential singers and songwriters of the 20th century.

    Helen Hayes, actress remembered to history as the “First Lady of American Theatre.”

    Isaac Hayes, songwriter who was one of the creative geniuses behind the success of the historic Stax Records.

    Jack Dempsey, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion remembered as “ The Manassas Mauler.”

    Jim Varney, actor best remembered for his role in The Beverly Hillbillies as well as his portrayal of the character “Ernest P. Worrell” in various productions.

    Jimmy Dorsey, big band leader known for such hits like “Tailspin,” “So Many Times,” and “Pennies from Heaven.”

    John Dillinger, notorious bank robber active at the height of the Great Depression.

    Joan Fontaine, actress known for her roles in such films like Rebecca, Suspicion, and The Constant Nymph.

    John Ritter, best remembered for his portrayal of Jack Tripper on the sitcom Three’s Company.

    Johnny Cash, country music musician known for such singles like “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” “Get Rhythm, and the “Folsom Prison Blues.”

    Katharine Hepburn, actress known for her roles in The African Queen and Woman of the Year.

    Kitty Kallen, singer best remembered for her song “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

    Laurence Olivier, actor known for his roles in the film adaptations of Hamlet, Henry V, and Richard III.

    Leonard Nimoy, best remembered for his portrayal as Spock in the television and movie franchise Star Trek.

    Linda Ronstadt, singer who received various accolades throughout her lifetime, including ten Grammy Awards.

    Loretta Lynn, country music musician known for such singles as “One’s on the Way,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” and “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”

    Louis Gossett Jr., actor best remembered for his roles in such productions as Roots and An Officer and a Gentleman.

    Louise Mandrell, country music musician known for such singles as “Some Girls Have All the Luck,” and “This Bed’s Not Big Enough.”

    Michael Jackson, one of the most influential singers of the 20th century who is remembered today as the “King of Pop.”

    Mickey Spillane, crime novelist known for his books that feature his signature detective character, Mike Hammer.

    Nancy Sinatra, singer known for such singles as “Sugar Town,” “Somethin’ Stupid,” and “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

    Ned Beatty, actor known for his roles in such productions like Network, Friendly Fire, and Hear My Song.

    Paul Whiteman, bandleader known for creating such songs like “Whispering,” “Valencia,” and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”

    Red Skelton, comedian best remembered for his popular television show, The Red Skelton Show.

    Roy Acuff, country music musician who performed as a mainstay on the Grand Ole Opry and is remembered as the “King of Country.”

    Roy Rogers, actor best remembered for his role on The Roy Rogers Show.

    Rudolf Wanderone, legendary pool player known to history as “Minnesota Fats.”

    Sir Edmund Hilary, explorer and alpinist who was one of the first two climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

    Snooky Lanson, singer and actor best remembered for his role on the sitcom Your Hit Parade.

    Spencer Tracy, actor known for such role sin Adam’s Rib, Woman of the Year, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

    Stan Kenton, jazz pianist and band leader who led his own influential orchestra throughout the mid-20th century.

    Stephen Spielberg, director known for such films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Jaws, the Indiana Jones franchise and among many other classic movies.

    Tallulah Bankhead, actress best remembered for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Lifeboat.

    Vivian Leigh, actress known for her roles in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Waylon Jennings, country musician best remembered as being a part of the famous “Outlaw Movement.”

    Wayne King, musician and band leader best remembered for his song “The Waltz You Saved For Me.”

    Willard Scott, comedian and television personality best remembered for his work on the Today show.

    Willie Mays, legendary outfielder for the New York/San Francisco Giants who is remembered today as “The Say Hey Kid.”

    Willie Nelson, country music musician who was part of the “Outlaw Movement” and is best remembered for such albums like Shotgun Willie and Red Headed Stranger.

    Woody Herman, jazz musician and band leader who received several Grammy Awards during his lifetime.

    Yul Brynner, actor known for his roles in such films like Anastasia, The Ten Commandments, and The King and I.

    Alvin York, famous World War I Medal of Honor recipient and cultural icon.

    Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Women Suffrage Association

    Edmund Hull “Boss” Crump, U.S. Representative from Tennessee (1931 – 1935)

    Huey Long, Governor of Louisiana (1928 – 1932) and U.S. Senator from Louisiana (1932 – 1935)

    Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York (1923 – 1928)

    Kenneth McKellar, U.S. Representative from Tennessee (1911 – 1917) and U.S. Senator from Tennessee (1917 – 1953)

    Al Gore Sr., U.S. Representative from Tennessee (1939 – 1953) and U.S. Senator from Tennessee (1953 – 1971)

    Jim Sasser, U.S Senator from Tennessee (1997 – 1995)

    Austin Peay, Governor of Tennessee (1923 – 1927)

    Hill McAlister, Governor of Tennessee (1933 – 1937)

    Prentice Cooper, Governor of Tennessee (1939 – 1945)

    Jim Nance McCord, U.S. Representative from Tennessee (1943 – 1945) and Governor of Tennessee (1945 – 1949)

    Frank G. Clement, Governor of Tennessee (1963 – 1967)

    Buford Ellington, Governor of Tennessee (1967 – 1971)

    Ned Rey McWherter, Governor of Tennessee (1987 – 1995)

    Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady to former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)

    William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909 – 1913) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 – 1930)

    Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States (1913 – 1921)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)

    John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961 – 1963)

    Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States (1963 – 1969) 

    Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States (1969 – 1974) 

    Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1977 – 1981) 

    Bill Clinton, 39th President of the United States (1977 – 1981) 

    George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States (2001 – 2009)

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Nashville Sound (1970)

    We the Women (1974)

    Country Gold (1982)

    How to Play Pool, by Minnesota Fats (1986)

    Roots: The Gift (1988)

    The Hannah Montana Movie (2009)

    Country Strong (2010)

    Nashville (2012)

    Master of None: Nashville (2018)

  • Women in History +

    Carrie Chapman Catt: For six weeks in the summer of 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt lived inside The Hermitage Hotel. She had arrived in the middle of July, hoping to help local suffragists in their fight to convince enough Tennessee state legislators to ratify the proposed 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A prominent figure in the national Women’s Suffrage movement, she was one of the figures responsible for eventually giving women the right to vote. Born in Wisconsin shortly before the start of the American Civil War, Catt had spent her childhood in Charles City, Iowa. She subsequently obtained an undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa before studying law for a short period of time. Catt eventually became a high-school principle in Mason City, rising to become its first female superintendent in 1883. During this time, Carrie Chapman Catt started engrossing herself into the women’s suffrage movement, which had started to build momentum in the Gilded Age. She quickly became one of the biggest suffragettes in Iowa, going a far as to organize the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association. Her dedication to the movement proved so be great that she even legally had her second husband, George Catt, sign a prenuptial agreement that would allow her to work exclusively on women’s suffrage for four months of the year. (George Catt remained steadfast in his support of his wife’s political beliefs, leaving her a large sum of money after his death to finance her activities.)

    Carrie Chapman Catt’s abilities as a fundraiser and community organizer were unrivaled at the time. As such, the members of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) elected her as their president in 1900. She had big shoes to fill, though, considering her predecessor was the legendary Susan B. Anthony. Nevertheless, Catt rose to the challenge. She quickly coordinated all sorts of political campaigns across the United States, making the NAWSA an emerging force in national politics. (Catt also united the organization with another group that she had recently founded called the “International Women Suffrage Alliance.”) After taking a brief sabbatical to care for her dying husband, Catt continued to guide the activities of the NAWSA for the better part of the next two decades. Under her tutelage, a large network of suffragists began lobbying extensively to build support for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw one’s sex as a prerequisite to vote. Catt called this strategy her “Winning Plan.” The first sign its success emerged after she consolidated the various suffrage groups in New York City to form the Women’s Suffrage Party. Its members greatly influenced the New York legislature toward passing a statewide mandate that allowed women the right to vote. Catt also gained considerable support from President Woodrow Wilson, whom she had impressed with her organization’s assistance to the national war effort during World War I. President Wilson subsequently gave a speech in 1918 that spoke favorably about the prospects of female suffrage.

    Over the next three years, the efforts of Catt and the NAWSA convinced 15 other state legislatures—as well as the Territory of Alaska—to pass similar state laws granting women the franchise. And with the backing of the White House, national support for a constitutional amendment had reached its zenith. In 1919, James R. Mann—a congressional representative from Illinois—motioned to vote on the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (also called the Susan Anthony Amendment). The measure subsequently passed the House of Representatives with a vote total of 304 to 89—more than the two-thirds majority required to pass any proposed amendment. Two weeks later, the Senate passed the bill 52 to 25. Per constitutional law, the 19th Amendment then went to the state legislatures for ratification. Catt and her fellow suffragists across the nation watched eagerly as 35 different states approved the bill—just one shy of a two-thirds majority (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states). But support stalled by 1920, as 11 other states refused to pass the amendment. Only two states remained that had yet to cast a vote either way: Tennessee and North Carolina. Recognizing the greater number of suffragists in Tennessee, Catt and her allies quickly traveled to Nashville that summer to lobby the state’s politicians. After six weeks of pitched battling against various anti-suffrage forces, Catt and her fellow suffragists managed to convince enough legislators to pass the 19th Amendment. Triumphant, Catt then founded the League of Women Voters as a means of educating women about their newfound civic responsibility. She subsequently served as the organization’s president until her death in 1947.

    Anne Dallas Dudley: Born in Nashville, Anne Dallas Dudley decided to separate from tradition and change history. She became one of the founders—as well as the first president—of the Nashville Equal Suffrage League in 1911. Then, four years later, she was elected as the President of the Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association. As such, she took an active role in helping out the grassroots suffrage leagues scattered across the state. Her abilities as a politician were soon recognized nationally, as Carrie Chapman Catt elevated her to serve as the Vice President of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1917. She was then given charge of the Congressional Steering Committee, which was engaged in a fierce push to enact a federal suffrage amendment. Although it took Dudley nearly two years, the Congressional Steering Committee succeeded in its push to start the creation of such a law. When the 19th Amendment passed both chambers of Congress, it subsequently went to the states for ratification. But when support stalled in 1920, Dudley played an integral role in helping to pass the amendment in Tennessee. Having returned to her native Nashville a year prior, she was one of the most vocal voices petitioning local legislators to place their support behind the law.

    Dudley had many endearing qualities, including being very articulate, energetic, and confident. She brought a charming— yet firm—style of smart leadership. Her social skills and untiring drive helped influence the gradual shift of public opinion about the role of women in both society and government. Dudley was also a visionary, proclaiming:

    • We have a vision of a time when a woman’s home will be the whole wide world, her children all whose feet are bare, and her sisters all who need a helping hand; a vision of a new knighthood, a new chivalry, when men will not only fight for women but for the rights of women.”

    This idealism served as the catalyst for her career as a social activist and philanthropist. She and her two children led the first suffrage parade in the South and was the first woman in Nashville to make an outdoor speech. During her time with the Nashville Equal Suffrage league, membership grew from a mere nine members to 1,200 in just a few years. Dudley also helped organize the national convention of the NAWSA in 1914, which was actually held in Nashville. (The Hermitage Hotel operated as the headquarters for the NAWSA that year, too). She also possessed a deep-rooted sense of patriotism, serving on the National Women’s Liberty Loan Committee during World War I. The organization successfully complete three war bond drive across Tennessee, raising much-needed funds for the national war effort.

    Dudley was persuasive and skilled at handling anti-suffrage arguments. She frequently responded to criticism that equated male suffrage with military service, pointing out that “women bear armies.” Dudley also held the conviction that women themselves needed the ballot for the sake of their own development. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Anne Dallas Dudley continued to raise her two children and became known as one of Nashville’s most gracious hostesses. She maintained her work as a social and civic leader, too, joining such organizations like the American Red Cross, the Garden Club of Nashville, the Association for Preservation of Antiquities, and the Colonial Dames. She even helped found the Woman’s Civic League of Nashville and was president of the Maternal Welfare Organization of Tennessee. The street adjoining The Hermitage Hotel is now named “Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard” in honor of her legacy. A painting of her face is included in the Pride of Tennessee collage in the Tennessee State Capitol, located a block away from the hotel.

Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 236;

Hotel History: The Hermitage Hotel (1910), Nashville, Tennessee*

By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Historic Hotels of America is proud to announce that the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee has been selected as the 2020 Historic Hotel of the Year.

“Congratulations to the ownership, leadership, and many associates at The Hermitage Hotel,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Vice President, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “We are delighted to recognize this magnificent historic hotel and its historic hoteliers for their dedication, enthusiasm, stewardship, and leadership in preserving this iconic treasure and its stories for future generations.

With an illustrious 110-year history in the heart of downtown Nashville, The Hermitage Hotel is deeply committed to protecting and preserving its ties to the past and remaining a cherished historic landmark for the city. Known as Nashville’s original million-dollar property, The Hermitage is a timeless icon of Southern hospitality and the state’s most luxurious hotel.

When the Hermitage opened in 1910, it advertised its rooms as “fireproof, noise proof and dustproof, $2.00 and up”. It was designed by the Tennessee-born architect J.E.R. Carpenter and named for President Andrew Jackson’s estate, “The Hermitage”. J.E.R. Carpenter was one of the most highly-regarded architects in the U.S. who specialized in the design of upper-class apartment buildings in New York City. Many won Gold Medals from the American Institute of Architects from 1916 through 1928. Carpenter was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Commissioned by 250 Nashvillians in 1908, the Hermitage Hotel provided hot and cold circulating water which was distilled to avoid typhoid fever. Each guestroom had a private bath, telephone, electric fan and a device which indicated the arrival of mail. The Hermitage was a symbol of Nashville’s emergence as a major Southern city. As Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel, no expense was spared in its furnishings: sienna marble in the entrance; wall panels of Russian walnut; a stained glass ceiling in the vaulted lobby; Persian rugs and massive overstuffed furniture. Downstairs, adjoining the Oak Bar, was the Grille Room (now the Capitol Grille) which was built by German craftsmen and a design.

The Hermitage has enjoyed a long relationship with the music industry as Nashville became known as Music City and home of the historic Grand Ole Opry. Nashville’s first million-selling record, “New You” was composed by the hotel’s band leader, Francis Craig in 1947, and helped the major recording companies to locate studios in Nashville. The hotel was the headquarters for the suffragette movement in 1920 as the state of Tennessee cast the deciding ballot in passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The Hermitage was also the home for eight years of legendary pool player Minnesota “Fats” where the hotel management installed a $3200 Steepleton billiards table on the mezzanine above the lobby.

One of the longest-serving general managers of the Hermitage was Howard E. Baughman who was highly energetic and able. He managed the hotel from 1929 to 1946 and was remembered by W.D. Brown who ran the hotel barbershop for forty-seven years:

  • “He was really a hotel man. He was always busy. I would open shop at eight o’clock. At 8:05 every morning he would walk in my door. He had already started at the top and inspected everything hiking all the way down to the basement. There were always a lot of bellboys around in those days. If he started talking to someone in the lobby, he might motion to one of the boys. The bellboy know what to do. He went to the desk and got the man’s name and slipped it to Mr. Baughman, who always liked to call a guest by his name. He was as straight as he could be. He would do anything for a guest. If the hotel was full and a regular guest came in he would take him to his apartment. Baughman had an apartment on the sixth floor.

For many years, the Hermitage was the center of Nashville’s social and political life hosting everything from formal functions in its grand ballroom to pep rallies for Vanderbilt University’s football team. The Meyer Hotel Company leased the hotel from 1913 to 1956. In 1956, the Hermitage was sold to the Alsonett Hotels Company who, after years of difficulty and deterioration finally shut it down in 1979. The Brock Hotel Corporation, the nation’s largest independent operator of Holiday Inns, acquired the hotel and, after an extensive renovation reopened it in 1981. But Brock was not successful and in 2000 sold the Hermitage to Historic Hotels of Nashville whose stated business goal was to gain the AAA Five-Diamond rating. During a multi-year $17 million renovation and restoration project, architect Ron Gobbell used historic photographs as a guide for the faithful and interpretive restoration, with interior design work by ForrestPerkins LLC.

In the ballroom, where the burled walnut paneling had dulled thanks to years of deterioration and grime, crews worked tirelessly to remove the dirt and old varnish by hand. Once the wood had been stripped, they hand-applied three new coats of varnish to restore the paneling’s lustrous gleam. Throughout the various renovations, there’s one part of the hotel that has remained virtually untouched: the green and black Art Deco-style men’s room in the basement. Originally white tiled, it was remodeled in the WWII era. After rebuilding its shoeshine stand, the bathroom has become a landmark in its own right, even winning the title of “America’s Best Restroom” in an online contest.

Director of Finance at the Hermitage Hotel is Tom Vickstrom who is also a talented and impassioned hotel historian. His indefatigable research has resulted in a series of newsletters, “Reflections from the Past” which are written for the ever-growing circle of friends and associates who enjoy history and have a special sentimental connection with the Hermitage Hotel. The newsletters are chock-full of vintage photographs; stories about Hermitage guests, famous and infamous; family recollections; great memories; old menus; nostalgic wedding pictures; former employees; and Hermitage Hotel memorabilia.

The Hermitage Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is Tennessee’s only AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award hotel.

*excerpted from my book Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi


About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:

  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”

Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Works published by Stanley Turkel include:

Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting, or by clicking on the book’s title.