Song of the South
Nashville’s turn-of-the-last-century railroad station celebrates the gilded age in reverent style
Its 247-foot clock tower rises elegantly above the city. Its intricately carved limestone arches reference Rome, at the height of civilization. Its kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows retain their magnificent color. This is no ordinary southern structure.
Originally built in 1898, Union Station was the transit point for all points west. One can imagine the collective gasp of passengers as they disembarked from their trains into the arrivals hall, which is crafted entirely of Kentucky limestone and gleaming with 128 vibrant glass panels. Architect Henry Hobson Richardson took pains to assure that the building was as formally dressed as the people who passed through it, incorporating wrought-iron balustrades, barrel-vaulted ceilings, bas-relief sculptures, and geometrically tiled walls into his Romanesque design. Every technological advancement of the era was used: an early version of a digital clock told time from the tower, and the train shed sported the longest unsupported span in America.
Since the station was transformed into a hotel in 1986, $11 million has gone into the Union Station Hotel to preserve those Gilded Age flourishes. When guests now enter the arrivals hall, there is still a collective gasp. The angels of commerce strewn across the 10 arches watch over the transactions down below. And you can almost hear the whistle blow from Bully 108, the locomotive that once steamed through these halls and today gives the steakhouse, Prime 108, its name.
Creativity is just connecting things