Nashville – Tennessee State Museum

Hank – After leaving the capitol we walked down to the farmer’s market to have lunch. After eating we decided to swing by the Tennessee State Museum before going to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. That turned to be a good mistake. We thought we would breeze through it but it turned out to be so fantastic that by the time we got out it was too late to get our money’s worth at the Musicians Hall of Fame. So there was a down side but since we don’t know what we missed we don’t know how down it was.

The museum was newly created last year. You walk through the chronology of Tennessee. There’s so much to cover and discover. I was blown away by how much history there is in this state. We both enjoyed it very much. Heading back into town we stopped by the Tennessee War Auditorium, which also houses the Military Branch Museum. A plethora of military monuments are outside the building. The museum itself is quite small and some of the time periods and artifacts were moved to the state museum. And there’s no air conditioning. The young lady working there was absolutely miserable. Today’s high was 90 and the humidity was probably around the same number.

The Bicentennial Capitol Mall stretches from the foot of the hill to the state museum. At the far end are 95 columns, each with a bell inside the top part. On the hour, The Tennessee Waltz is played followed by a chime for each hour. After that some more Tennessee-related songs are played such as The Wabash Cannonball and Rocky Top. It’s very cool. Alongside the length of the mall is a wall separated by each decade of statehood with significant events of each decade on it.

Kathy – The Tennessee State Museum was absolutely fantastic. The history of this state is incredible and I’m thankful this museum helped me learn about it. Even after the hours spent there, I could go back and spend a few more.

I took about 500 pictures and that only captured a small portion of this museum’s vast amount of information. After seeing the not so impressive State Capitol Building, my expectations were pretty low going into this place. However, this is truly a fabulous State Museum. It more than made up for the Capitol. There are so many great museums in Nashville to visit, the Tennessee State Museum is truly outstanding and one not to be missed.

Nashville – The State Capitol


Hank – We began our day with a walk to the state capitol building. First we checked out the replica buildings of Fort Nashborough, which are right across the street from the hostel. There we learned about the hiccups involved in the creation of Tennessee. Native American lands, claims by Virginia, and more solud claims by North Carolina, and the “state” of Franklin lost to two of those three.

The capitol building is plain and dull. It was not designed to impress anyone. The legislature is in session January through April, so this being May the building was very quiet. There’s none of the grandeur we’ve seen at other capitol buildings. And it was so quiet that as we entered I wondered if anyone was inside.

We tagged into a tour that had already started. There’s not a lot to cover but it was very interesting. Tennessee had two governors during the Civil War. The Union had captured Nashville and parts of the state and Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as the military governor. Meanwhile, the elected governor still controlled the seceded part of the state. Also, the subject if secession was a contentious one. About a third of the state sided with the Union. Consequently, the decision to secede took a long time. Tennessee was the last the secede and then the first to rejoin the Union after ratifying the 14th Amendment.

The building was made of limestone quarried not far from the capitol. But it was cut against the grain which allowed for water damage to accumulate over the years. It got so bad that they thought about demolishing it and building a new one. Instead they replaced all the damaged blocks with limestone from Indiana. You can see where all the replacement blocks went in because they’re all a plain gray in contrast to the grain-filled originals.

Former President Andrew Jackson has two busts, an outside sculpture, and a portrait painting in the building. Former President James Polk, also a former Tennessee governor, has a bust, a portrait, and he and his wife a buried on the capitol grounds. I guess that makes them even as presidents go.

The old photos showing Union soldiers, their tents, and their cannon on the grounds were cool.

Kathy – Keeping it short since Hank already discussed the main topics… Tennessee has such a rich history that I was surprised to see the Tennessee State Capital Building so bland. There is no grand dome or spectacular architecture, and it had far fewer statutes, portraits and information available compared to the many other Capital Buildings we have been to. It was nice, but overall not too impressive.