Skip to Main Content

Downtown’s 5 Best Historical Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know

December 20, 2021  /  Downtown Nashville Blog

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” —Rudyard Kipling

Whether you're a Nashville native or a Tennessee transplant, so much of the local ambience can be found within downtown’s walkable 1.8 miles. Downtown is your neighborhood to not only discover and rediscover 350+ dining options, 120+ shops, 140+ nightlife destinations, but is also where you’ll find architectural wonders, fascinating pieces of history, and so much more. 

We dug up some roots of downtown’s rich history & found stories embedded in a hundred years of history & even some that are creating it now. We hope we inspire you to explore all there is to offer Downtown NOW!

  • Downtown Broadway is host to the only museum in the nation dedicated to the impact of African American music. The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) offers self guided tours with over 90 minutes of information dedicated to the history of diversified culture, artistry and influence. The NMAAM is continuing to write history through interactive stories that educate participants on the musical impact African Americans have made on American culture. Musical heroes of the past and present come to life through a collection of stage costumes, instruments, sheet music, recording equipment and photographs from many genres.

Recently named one of the “Best New Museum in 2021” by USA Today, NMAAM is perfect for exploring with family, friends, and classmates within the walkable blocks of downtown Music City. 

For a full list of the museum's hours and tickets visit them here.

  • The Downtown Presbyterian Church, built in 1851, is one of the few examples of Egyptian Revival architecture in America. Originally built in 1814, the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville hosted the presentation of a ceremonial sword to General Andrew Jackson on the front steps of the church— this following the Battle of New Orleans. It survived until a fire destroyed it in 1832. Rebuilding in that year, on the same site, the second building hosted the Inauguration of James K. Polk as Governor of Tennessee. That building burned down in 1848.

Despite multiple reconstructions, unfortunate events, and architectural changes, the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church continues to hold worship on Sundays. It is open to the public on a limited schedule. During those designated times, a member will be available to answer visitors’ questions. Sanctuary tours are free to attend with donations accepted. They also have a QR code for visitors to scan and watch an in-depth video of the church historian highlighting some facts and stories of the past and present. 

For more details on available dates see here

  • Timothy Demonbreun, Nashville’s “first citizen,” lived in a cave on the outskirts of downtown before becoming the name of a popular downtown street. A name you’ve likely heard your GPS mispronounce (say it together; “Demon” Bre-Un”). Timothy Demonbreun, considered to be the first citizen of Nashville, lived in a cave along the Cumberland River while hunting & establishing trade as early as 1769. The cave is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is privately owned, but it can be viewed from the overlook at nearby Shelby Bottoms. Thanks to LED-lit stairs located at the Gulch Crossing Office building connecting upscale dining & shopping in The Gulch to the downtown core, Demonbreun is the perfect route for exploring all the way to the riverfront. 
  • Nissan Stadium or “Titan’s Stadium” was originally named the Coliseum. Most people might know this detail already. But did you know the whole Titan’s theme is historically all encompassing? 

No need to rehash the history of the Houston Oilers bussing “Nashville fans” to Memphis, we’re talking about the downtown venue that serves as a true spectacle resting on the bank of the Cumberland River. 

It came to fruition in 1999 by slowly building levels like the city of Rome. The name, “The Coliseum”, was based on Nashville's aritechectual masterpieces such as The Nashville Parthenon. Because of our historic recognition, Nashville is dubbed the “Athens of the South,” making the Titan’s name & stadium a true nod to its historical significance. 

Furthermore, the easy walk over the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to reach Titan’s stadium is one of the best ways to take in downtown’s rapidly changing skyline and a post-worthy photo of the sunset.

  • The origin of “Music City” & Nashville’s musical reputation actually has nothing to do with Honky Tonks. Music City began with the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University: An all-black acapella group that toured the nation during the 1870s to raise money for the university (one of 4 HBCUs in Nashville!). The group left campus for their fundraising tour on October 6, 1871. The Fisk Jubilee Singers remain relevant 150 years later - having won a GRAMMY Award for Best Roots Gospel Album in 2021 - and are a poignant reminder that Music City is celebrated for its richness in MANY music genres, not just Country. Inspired by this history to go check out some diverse musical offerings downtown? Let our comprehensive list of downtown spots where you can regularly catch live music be your guide!

Whether you live, work or play here, downtown Nashville has something for everyone when you realize the diverse array of things to do, see and learn within the  unique, walkable urban neighborhoods that make up our city’s center. NOW is the time to come downtown to reimagine, rediscover and reconnect. And if you’re inspired to learn even more about downtown Nashville, check out these great walking and riding tours - it’s good to be a tourist in your own city every once in a while!