Union Station: “…a great day for Nashville”

Broadway 1

Ground was broken for the new Union Station, Broad and Walnut Street, Nashville August 1, 1898 (The Tennessean, Oct. 9, 1900, p. 1).  The planned $1,000,000 terminal station and adjacent facilities to meet freight, mail, and storage were featured in “New Terminal Stations in the South” (The Tennessean, Nov. 27, 1899, p. 4).  The station opened Sept. 3, 1900, and the formal opening was held Oct. 9, 1900.

I look around and wonder what hands have wrought this splendor of my going.  It is the work of years now come to splendid consummation under the wise direction of Maj. E. C. Lewis–the magnificent Union Station.  One million and a half of dollars have been expended to make it the most superb and complete depot south of the Ohio River.  Nashville is proud of it, and her interest in every line will be enhanced by it…The hand of progress is truly stamped upon the great city throughout.  The Superintendent of these terminals, B. M. Starks, commenced as an operator and is not yet over 35 years of age, a splendid example of what energy and capacity properly directed will accomplish.

‘All aboard,’ cried Capt. Williams, and we rolled out of the great station, not forgetting that from the tower of the pretty building the God of Mercury, with his outstretched hand, pointed the traveler to safe passage on his journey. (The Tennessean, Sept. 17, 1900, p. 6)

Wikipedia indicates the station was designed by Richard Montfort, chief engineer of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, in order to serve the eight railroads that provided passenger service to and from Nashville.  The former train station is now operated as the Union Station Hotel Nashville.  After the railroad ceased service in 1979, the station was vacant for a period as Nashville was insistent that any re-use had to preserve the main terminal and adjacent buildings.  It was converted to a hotel in 1986, but was not sustainable and went bankrupt.  It was re-opened and in 2012 became a Marriott and was again renovated in 2016.  The hotel offers historic tours on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.


…Romanesque in design…built of Bowling Green gray stone, with ashlar face carved in and capped with the same material. It is four stories high, with a big, square tower of severe, though admirable, lines, rising to a height of 320 feet, capped with a bronze Mercury as a finial.  The roof is slate, with gables and demons, after the Romanesque fashion, set fittingly and without stint. (The Tennessean, Oct. 9, 1900, p. 1)

Significant individuals from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad who were involved in the project included:

  • M. H. Smith, President, responsible for the arrangements of the lay-out
  • August Belmont, Chairman of the Board
  • Maj. J. W. Thomas
  • Maj. E. C. Lewis, Director General and President of Terminal Company
  • R. Montfort, Chief Engineer of the L & N Railroad and Chief Engineer of the Terminal Company, prepared plans and prints
  • W. E. Hutchings, assistant engineer, supervisor of construction
  • H. C. Griswold, engineer 1898-1900
  • M. H. Wright, engineer 1900
  • Foster & Creighton, contractors for graduation and masonry
  • Charles A. Moses, general contractor for station and baggage, mail and express buildings
  • W. E. Wood, superintendent of construction for contractor
  • Louisville Bridge & Iron Company, with Terminal Company’s forces, constructed train shed and viaducts
  • Geo. M. Ingram, Nashville Roofing & Paving Company, paving of viaducts and concrete work on the concourse
  • Mosaic Tile Company of Zanesville, Ohio, paving and flooring and tiling of main station
  • McNulty Bros., plaster work
  • M. J. Doner, art work
  • Almini Company, painting and varnishing
  • John L. Nelson & Bros., frescoing and interior decoration
  • D. W. Watson’s Sons Company, plumbing, gas, and electric
  • Phillips and Company, roofing and guttering
  • Henry Taylor Manufacturing Company, with Edgefield & Nashville Manufacturing Company, interior wood finish and furniture
  • Champion Iron Company, ornamental iron work and stairways
  • Bourlier Cornice and Roofing Company, slate and galvanized iron

Whilst driving down Broadway Street on our way back to the hotel after dinner, who would have thought a random street photo would lead me on this trajectory?  Clearly, we have more visits to make to Nashville.  There is more than the music scene to discover.

This entry was posted in Nashville, railroad lines, Romanesque, train station depot buildings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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