After the renaming of the Union Gospel Tabernacle to the Ryman Auditorium, the next few decades brought with it some rough times and many say that without one or two women's dedication that the Ryman would've closed and ceased to exist for sure.
In the early decades of the 1900's, the Ryman was losing money but the Ryman's manager Lula C. Naff was a very determined lady and history has it that you could see her, selling tickets to the Ryman Performances and show, on the street corners of Nashville on a regular basis.
But that still wasn't enough for Lula because she was also determined to bring in some of the best and most prominent performers of the day and she did. The entertainment ranged from Mary Pickford, Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Katherine Hepburn to Rachmaninoff and Valentino.
Lula's commitment to the Ryman paid off and soon the Ryman was becoming known as a premiere entertainment hot spot. During this time, the acoustics of the Ryman became legendary throughout the country and it's sound was said to be second only to the Mormon Tabernacle. The Ryman was soon nicknamed the "The Carnegie Hall of the South."
Ultimately, the Ryman stayed afloat just long enough for the beginnings of the Grand Ole Opry radio show to get its foot into the Ryman Auditorium.
While most people will never hear of Lula, recognize her name, or learn about her undying dedication to this historical and magical building, we feel that without her the Ryman would've most definitely seen its demise long before the international phenomenon known as the Grand Ole Opry came into existence.
The history of the Ryman continues, when in 1943, the Grand Ole Opry Radio show moved within its walls and remained there until the spring of 1974. Two decades after the Grand Ole Opry moved into the Ryman, it was bought by National Life insurance, the owners of the Grand Ole Opry Radio Show.
But troubles and woes would befall the Ryman, once again, when move to the new Grand Ole Opry House was announced. The Ryman was in disrepair and a black cloud loomed over it's future. There was allot of talk around town about it being torn down altogether. But a huge grassroots effort to save the Ryman took hold across Nashville and the historic building was eventually saved. This effort was also a part of the new era and beginnings of the downtown renovation.
The Ryman changed hands once again in 1982 when American General took over the National Life and it's properties and fears of losing the Ryman to a wrecking ball once again returned.
Soon afterward, in order to reduce buy out of National Life American General, American General began to negotiate the sale of some of the National Life's assets which included the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, Opryland Theme park, WSM radio Station, and the Ryman Auditorium.
Once again, another determined lady would come to the rescue of the expectantly doomed Ryman Auditorium and it was none other than Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon aka Minnie Pearl. While no noted facts can confirm that Minnie Pearl actually played a part in saving the Ryman, there were plenty of rumors to that effect and it was a fact that one of her best friends did end up buying it.
An announcement of the pending sale followed when an Oklahoma Businessman, Ed Gaylord and good friend of Minnie Pearl bought the all of the combined properties for $225 million and operations continued at the Ryman. Locals still worried that the demise of the Ryman would be forthcoming but in 1993, Gaylord Entertainment began an 8.5 million dollar renovation which would eventually put all fears to rest about the future of the Ryman Auditorium.
To this day, rumors still float around Nashville about what was, could've, or must've been said in the conversation between Minnie Pearl and Ed Gaylord, but most folks just appreciate that the Ryman was not only saved but restored to all of its former glory.
Gaylord Entertainment still owns and maintains the Ryman Auditorium and in recent years, it has even been named as one of the nation's best venues and since 1999, the Grand Ole Opry show even makes an annual pilgrimage to the Ryman every year during the winter months.
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