Hermitage Hotel celebrates 100th anniversary

Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 9:00pm
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Photo by Jude Ferrara

Since Sept. 17, 1910, we’ve seen two world wars, one Great Depression and one Great Recession, 18 American presidents, Prohibition, the assassinations of some of our most important political and cultural figures, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights era, peace-and-love, war-and-profit, the Internet, and the impressive run of what the Nashville Banner once breathlessly declared to be a worldwide phenomenon.

“Without a doubt the busiest place in the world barring none — not even the Panama Canal — is the Hermitage Hotel to-day,” read the lead line of a story ushering in the era of the city’s most historic and recognized hotel, which officially turned 100 on Sept. 17.

The hotel at Sixth Avenue North between Church and Union streets has long drawn the attention of the city’s most famous daughters and sons, along with innumerable celebrities of all stripes, U.S. presidents, and Nashville couples looking for a getaway weekend minus the travel.

During the 1930s, the Francis Craig Orchestra (whose song “Near You” — and its attendant success — is credited in part for drawing the music business’s various attentions to Nashville) held court in what is now the Capitol Grille. Dinner and dancing on a Saturday night cost $1.50.

The Hermitage Hotel fell on hard times in the 1970s. With crumbling terracotta and a population of vagrants and street people, the then-closed hotel’s destiny seemed to be the round side of a wrecking ball. But Mayor Richard Fulton and a group of the community’s concerned were able to handhold it back to prominence; the hotel was sold and renovated, and in 1981 was reopened.

With a 2003 renovation that took the Hermitage Hotel back toward its regal roots, the place is again considered one of the best hostelries in the country. This centennial, hotel officials are focusing attention on a recent partnership with the Land Trust for Tennessee, which for the last two years has received $2 from every room night billed at the hotel.

“The preservation is so crucial,” said Janet Kurtz, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “We have been preserved for 100 years, thankfully. That’s such a big story to tell.”