Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection

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Discover Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection, which was once a grand train hub where notorious gangster Al Capone once passed through.

Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection was constructed at the dawn of the 20th century, in which the United States had started to emerge as a global superpower.

At the turn of the century, when rail travel was considered special, passengers dressed in their Sunday best, and train stations were built to be grand, beautiful buildings resembling something more along the lines of a modern day castle. Nashville's Union Station opened to the public on October 9, 1900. An architecturally marvelous Gothic-style, late Victorian Romanesque Revival style building, it featured lofty towers, turrets, and served as a testament to U.S. ingenuity and excitement for the new century.

During the glory days of rail travel in the U.S., the Nashville, Tennessee Union Station definitely saw its share of glamour. Movie starlet Mae West passed through, as well as notorious gangster Al Capone who was escorted through Nashville on his way to the Georgia penitentiary.

As rail travel fell out of fashion, the station was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Train service was finally discontinued in October 1979 and the station was completely abandoned. As the building was designated as a National Historic Lanmark in 1977, the fate of the building tugged on the heartstrings of Nashvillians who wanted to incorporate the preservation of the main terminal building in any plan for development. In the 1980s, a group of investors decided to play fairy godmother to the landmark building by investing in it and turning it into a luxury hotel. It passed in and out of the hands of various owners, and finally on October 9, 2007, it was re-dedicated after an $11 million restoration and renovation.

  • About the Architecture +

    Nashville's Union Station opened to the public on October 9, 1900. An architecturally marvelous Gothic-style, late Victorian Romanesque Revival style building, it featured lofty towers, turrets, and served as a testament to U.S. ingenuity and excitement for the new century.


Guest Historian Series

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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 232;


Hotel History: Union Station Hotel (1900), Nashville, Tennessee*



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Long before it was a historic hotel, the Nashville, Tennessee Union Station was a key center in America's economy and transportation. Opening on Oct. 9, 1900, for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the building's imposing Gothic design featuring a soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling and Tiffany-styled stained glass, was a testament to U.S. ingenuity and energy. During railroading's glory years, Mafia kingpin Al Capone was escorted through here on his way to the Georgia penitentiary. Other fascinating facts surrounding this historic Nashville station include:



  • Construction began on August 1, 1898
  • Station officially opened on Oct. 9, 1900
  • The track level once held two alligator ponds

The Train Shed was the largest unsupported span in America, housing up to 10 full trains at once



Pulsing locomotives hissed on the platforms, as gravel-throated conductors shouted, "All aboard!" The stunning Nashville Union Station hotel is truly special for the following characteristics:



  • Heavy-stone Richardsonian-Romanesque design
  • Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977
  • Sixty-five foot, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling, featuring gold-leaf medallions, and 100-year-old original Luminous Prism stained glass
  • Marble floors, oak-accented doors and walls, and three limestone fireplaces
  • Twenty gold-accented bas-relief angel of commerce figurines
  • Two bas-relief panels—a steam locomotive and horse-drawn chariot ̶ at each end of the lobby

Union Station was designed by one of the most famous American architects: Henry Hobson Richardson who, along with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright was one of "the recognized trinity of American architecture." Of the ten buildings named by American architects as the best in 1885, fully half were his: Trinity Church in Boston, Albany City Hall, Sever Hall at Harvard University, the New York State Capital in Albany (as a collaboration), and Town Hall in North Easton, Massachusetts. Richardson designed nine railroad stations for the Boston & Albany Railroad as well as three stations for other lines including the Nashville Union Station for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.



The station reached peak usage during World War II when it was the shipping-out point for tens of thousands of U.S. troops. After the war, it started a long decline as passenger rail service in the U.S. generally was reduced. By the 1960s, it was served by only a few trains daily. Much of its open spaces were roped off and its architectural features became largely the habitat of pigeons. The formation of Amtrak in 1971 reduced service to the northbound and southbound Floridian train each day. When this service was discontinued in October 1979, the station was abandoned entirely. The station fell into the custody of the United States Government's General Services Administration. In the early 1980s a group of investors came forward with a plan to finance the renovation of the station into a luxury hotel which was approved. After extensive renovation, the new investor group who bought the hotel out of bankruptcy were able to operate it profitably.



By the mid-1990s they had restored Mercury to his place atop the tower, albeit in a two-dimensional form painted in trompe l'oeil style to replicate the original. This was destroyed in the 1998 downtown Nashville tornado but was soon replaced.



Frommer's Review reported in The New York Times:



"Built in 1900 and housed in the Romanesque Gothic former Union Station railway terminal, this hotel is a grandly restored National Historic Landmark. Following a $10-million renovation, completed in 2007, all guest rooms and public spaces have been updated. The lobby is the former main hall of the railway station and has a vaulted ceiling of Tiffany stained glass [...]."



*excerpted from his 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 www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.



Contact: Stanley Turkel



stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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