- Nashvilles Grand Hotel
I travel the region looking for good stories and Nashville
is loaded with them. Recently, I joined a few old and new friends for
the reopening gala celebration of a genuine luxury hotel, The Hermitage.
My expectations were that it would be a day or two of commercial pitches,
much like those seminars that promise a free Florida vacation.
Instead, this was an introduction to an architectural and artistic wonder
that has had guests ranging from Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt
and John F. Kennedy to Gene Autry, Minnesota Fats and Steven Spielburg.
Hermitage Hotel has a relationship to Nashville similar to the Georgian
Terrace with Atlanta. It is a small luxury facility that has been renovated
and modernized, but, because of cost prohibitions, could never be duplicated.
To the credit of the new owners, the hotels original look wasnt
changed and much of what was there from the inception is preserved. The
Hermitage is Nashvilles only remaining grand hotel and commercial
example of a well-unified style in the mode of Beaux Arts Classicism.
The entrance into the lobby is spectacular, a showcase composed of Grecian
and Tennessean marble featuring furnishings from the earths four
corners. The grand ballroom, more intimate than modern versions, is paneled
in Circassian walnut from Russia and is highlighted by an ornately handcrafted
ceiling. This was the room where guests enjoyed gourmet dishes prepared
by Executive Chef Sean Brock while tapping their toes to the music of
Pat Patricks jazz trio.
thing was fundamentally clear during my stay. Nashvilles business
and civic leaders are unified in welcoming the hotels rebirth. Mayor
Bill Purcell dropped by for a speech during my first evening, praising
the efforts by The Hermitages new owners and observing that almost
everyone in Nashville has some connection or experience with this hotel.
My physician in Atlanta, a Vanderbilt man, and former Braves and Falcons
front office executive Frank Spence, a Nashville native, echoed Mayor
Purcell. The Hermitage is part and parcel of Music Citys heritage.
The hotel preview itinerary generously allowed for visits to Nashville
landmarks. A morning at The Parthenon had us gasping at the 42-foot statue
of Athena, the tallest indoor structure in the western world. A walk through
the hallowed Ryman Auditorium was a reminder that this building where
the Grand Ol Opry began, is still the Mecca of country music. Around
the corner in Studio B on Music Row, young Elvis Presley under the musical
supervision of Georgias Chet Atkins, recorded over 200 songs for
Music Hall of Fame is also a short walk from the Hermitage. It is loaded
with memorabilia and is perhaps the one place besides the Smithsonian
where pure Americana is housed. The actual Hall of fame is in a rotunda
where the words: Will The Circle Be Unbroken? are appropriately
inscribed just below the ceiling. The men and women from Georgia are well
represented on the rotunda walls. I found Chet Atkins, the great guitarist
from north Georgia, Avondale Estates Bill Anderson and Conyers
native Brenda Lee, plus others. The dominant musician was the King. Elvis
gold records could cover a barn and his gold Cadillac and gold piano sat
side by side on the third floor.
The Frist Center for the Arts, (see below), a mega museum and fine art
exhibition facility in the old post office around the corner from the
hotel is a tribute to the philanthropy of one of the souths most
public-spirited families. This facility plus the nearby Tennessee Performing
Arts Center is solid evidence that Nashville is much more than popular
music and the recording industry.
Back at The Hermitage, we had one more evening of indulgence provided
by Chef Brock, this time at The Capitol Grille, a first-rate restaurant
voted by Esquire Magazine as one of the countrys best. Over the
of dining, the young and talented Chef supplied hungry guests with an
array of his favorites. A sampling: Balsamic Roasted Bartlett Pears, Hazelnut
crusted blackened grouper and the finest rack of lamb served this side
of New Orleans. Each course was perfectly paired with appropriate wine,
a certain indicator of attention to culinary excellence. Brock, a Virginia
native and graduate of Johnson and Wales University, uses the influences
of many cultures in his cooking, but his core principles are southern.
The Hermitage Hotel has set its own bar of excellence rather high by announcing
that it intends to be the only American Automobile Association (AAA) Five
Diamond Hotel and Mobil Five-Star Hotel in not only Tennessee but in most
neighboring states. That would make it a perfect 10. If my
stay is any indicator, The Hermitage should garner these awards soon.
The commitment to excellence and the follow through to make it possible