Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home to a large number of colleges and universities. Reflecting the city’s position in state government, Nashville is home to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s courthouse for Middle Tennessee. It is most notably known as a center of the music industry, earning it the nickname “Music City”. Nashville has a consolidated city–county government which includes six smaller municipalities in a two-tier system. As of the 2010 census the population of the city of Nashville, not including the semi-independent municipalities, stood at 601,222. The population of Davidson County as a whole, including all municipalities, was 626,681. Nashville is the second largest city in Tennessee, after Memphis, and the fourth largest city in the Southeastern United States. The 2010 population of the entire 13-county Nashville metropolitan area was 1,589,934, making it the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the state. The 2010 population of the Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Columbia combined statistical area, a larger trade area, was 1,670,890.
The town of Nashville was founded by James Robertson, John Donelson, and a party of Overmountain Men in 1779, near the original Cumberland settlement of Fort Nashborough. It was named for Francis Nash, the American Revolutionary War hero. Nashville quickly grew because of its strategic location, accessibility as a river port, and its later status as a major railroad center. In 1806, Nashville was incorporated as a city and became the county seat of Davidson County, Tennessee. In 1843, the city was named the permanent capital of the state of Tennessee.
By 1860, when the first rumblings of secession began to be heard across the South, antebellum Nashville was a very prosperous city. The city’s significance as a shipping port made it a desirable prize as a means of controlling important river and railroad transportation routes. In February 1862, Nashville became the first state capital to fall to Union troops. The Battle of Nashville (December 15–16, 1864) was a significant Union victory and perhaps the most decisive tactical victory gained by either side in the war. Within a few years after the Civil War the city had reclaimed its important shipping and trading position and also developed a solid manufacturing base. The post–Civil War years of the late 19th century brought a newfound prosperity to Nashville. These healthy economic times left the city with a legacy of grand classical-style buildings, which can still be seen around the downtown area.
Since the 1970s, the city has experienced tremendous growth, particularly during the economic boom of the 1990s under the leadership of then-Mayor and later-Tennessee Governor, Phil Bredesen, who made urban renewal a priority, and fostered the construction or renovation of several city landmarks, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the downtown Nashville Public Library, the Bridgestone Arena, and LP Field.
LP Field (formerly Adelphia Coliseum) was built after the National Football League’s (NFL) Houston Oilers agreed to move to the city in 1995. The NFL team debuted in Nashville in 1998 at Vanderbilt Stadium, and LP Field opened in the summer of 1999. The Oilers changed their name to the Tennessee Titans and saw a season culminate in the Music City Miracle and a close Super Bowl game that came down to the last play.
In 1997 Nashville was awarded an NHL expansion team which was subsequently named the Nashville Predators. Since coming into the league the team has made the playoffs every season except one, and has only ever had one head coach, Barry Trotz. Today, the city along the Cumberland River is a crossroads of American culture, and one of the fastest-growing areas of the Upland South.
The downtown area of Nashville features a diverse assortment of entertainment, dining, cultural and architectural attractions. The Broadway and 2nd Avenue areas feature entertainment venues, night clubs and an assortment of restaurants. North of Broadway lies Nashville’s central business district, Legislative Plaza, Capitol Hill and the Tennessee Bicentennial Mall. Cultural and architectural attractions can be found throughout the city.
The downtown area of Nashville is easily accessible. Three major interstate highways (I-40, I-65 and I-24) converge near the core area of downtown, and many regional cities are within a day’s driving distance.
Nashville’s first skyscraper, the Life & Casualty Tower, was completed in 1957 and started the construction of high rises in downtown Nashville. After the construction of the AT&T Building (commonly known to locals as the “Batman Building”) in 1994, the downtown area saw little construction until the mid-2000s. Many new residential developments have been constructed or are planned for the various neighborhoods of downtown and midtown. A new high rise office building, The Pinnacle, was recently opened in 2010.
Many civic and infrastructure projects are either being planned, in progress, or recently completed. A new MTA bus hub was recently completed in downtown Nashville, as was the Music City Star pilot project. Several public parks have been constructed, such as the Public Square. Riverfront Park is scheduled to be extensively updated. The Music City Center, a convention center project, has been approved for the downtown area and is currently under construction.
Much of the city’s cultural life has revolved around its large university community. Particularly significant in this respect were two groups of critics and writers who were associated with Vanderbilt University in the early twentieth century: the Fugitives and the Agrarians. Popular destinations include Fort Nashborough and Fort Negley, the former being a reconstruction of the original settlement, the latter being a semi-restored Civil War battle fort; the Tennessee State Museum; and The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. The Tennessee State Capitol is one of the oldest working state capitol buildings in the nation, while The Hermitage is one of the older presidential homes open to the public.
As the “home of country music”, Nashville has become a major music recording and production center. All of the Big Four record labels, as well as numerous independent labels, have offices in Nashville, mostly in the Music Row area. Since the 1960s, Nashville has been the second biggest music production center (after New York) in the U.S. As of 2006, Nashville’s music industry is estimated to have a total economic impact of US$6.4 billion per year and to contribute 19,000 jobs to the Nashville area.
Although Nashville is renowned as a music recording center and tourist destination, its largest industry is actually health care. Nashville is home to more than 250 health care companies, including Hospital Corporation of America, the largest private operator of hospitals in the world. As of 2006, it is estimated that the health care industry contributes US$18.3 billion per year and 94,000 jobs to the Nashville-area economy. The automotive industry is also becoming increasingly important for the entire Middle Tennessee region. Nissan North America moved its corporate headquarters in 2006 from Gardena, California (Los Angeles County) to Franklin, southwest of Nashville. Nissan also has its largest North American manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Largely as a result of the increased development of Nissan and other Japanese economic interests in the region, Japan moved its New Orleans consulate-general to Nashville’s Palmer Plaza.
Other major industries in Nashville include insurance, finance, and publishing (especially religious publishing). The city hosts headquarters operations for several Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention USA, and the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Fortune 500 companies within Nashville include Dell, HCA and Dollar General.
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