Market Square

The original epicenter of Nashville

Downtown Nashville once revolved around a market square that is no longer there.

Market Square in Nashville was once the epicenter for downtown commerce. Before urban renewal in the 1970s, all roads within the city limits radiated out from this point. In 1783, the first lodging house, the Nashville Inn, was built in Market Square and a year later the courthouse and jail were erected. The first shop opened a year later, selling merchandise from East Coast cities. The Square can be seen in the original plot of Nashville as surveyed by Thomas Molloy in 1789. Market Square became a busier hub as the city's population grew in the late nineteenth century. It played host to all of the major businesses necessary in a metropolis including barbershops, a doctor's office, and even a dance school.

During the Civil War, Nashville’s strategic location on the Cumberland River and its importance in the railroad network led to its early occupation by the Union Army. Because of its early occupation, the city suffered relatively little destruction during the war. As a result, Nashville expanded quickly and grew significantly during the Reconstruction Era. From that period until the late nineteenth century, the Square was still the center of residential and commercial life in the city, providing services to those who lived around it. In the early twentieth century though, residential construction began moving out of the downtown area.

Due to the rise of the automobile and other cultural shifts, the downtown area became a less-favorable residential neighborhood. Due to this, the main purpose of the Square changed from commerce to transportation. Beginning in the 1950s, the city of Nashville started demolishing the historic square to create James Robertson Parkway, Rosa Parks Parkway, and Public Square Park.