Union Station

Nashville's First Train Station

The city’s leap into the 20th century

Union Station was the first major train station to be built in Nashville, and it also served as one the first architecturally-distinctive landmarks of the city. With its high clock tower and neo-gothic design, Nashville saw the building as a great leap into the 20th century. The project began in 1897 and was complete by 1898. Upon its completion, the station was being hailed by the public and newspapers as the finest train terminal in the southern United States. Richard Montfort, the same architect responsible for the L&M station in Knoxville, designed the facility. Montfort used marble for the exterior walls and fitted the tower with bronze. The building, along with its train shed and freight terminal, cost the city $650,000.

A fire in the surrounding area broke out in 1897, which prompted the construction of new brick buildings, instead of the traditionally wood residential and commercial buildings. With the new station being built and fresh residences being erected, Nashville became a hotbed for new families.

Immediately after its completion, the city invited famous Union veterans from the Civil War, Commander Maynard and Lieutenant Hobson, to tour the new magnificent structure. The area around the station flourished as the entrance to Nashville. By the 1930s, the government constructed the central post office beside the station since trains at the time carried mail internationally. The decline of railroad transportation for goods and people forced the area to change. By the 1970s, Nashville built a new post office outside of the downtown area due to the lack of mail being transported by trains. Overall, Union Station served its original purpose until the late 1970s when private investors bought it and turned the building into a luxury hotel.

The identity of the surrounding neighborhoods also changed due to the lack of train cargo. Private developers began gutting warehouses and bulk stores to make way for modern commercial buildings. Today we are still seeing the effects of Union Station’s closure as a train destination. Developers have built chic apartments and hip stores in the area previously dominated by the railroad economy.