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Nashville - Athens of the South

Nashville 1850-1900 - Athens of the South

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Photo by George Barnard

View from the State Capital (1864)

By the 1850’s, Nashville had already earned the nickname of the “Athens of the South” by having established numerous higher education institutions as well as being the first Southern City to establish a public school system. By the end of the century, Nashville would see Fisk University, St. Cecilia Academy, Montgomery Bell Academy, Meharry Medical College, Belmont University, and Vanderbilt University all open their doors.

At the time, Nashville was known to be one of the most refined and educated cities of the south, filled with wealth and culture. Nashville had several theaters as well as plenty of elegant accommodations and was a vibrant expanding town, but that would all come to a complete halt with the civil war beginning in the 1861, it would devastate Nashville and it’s residents well into 1865.

Nashville would see the completion of the state capital building in 1859, and following the civil war Nashville would begin it’s rebuilding and growth once again with the completion of Jubilee Hall in 1876, General Hospital in 1890, The Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892, a new state prison in 1898,and finally the Union Station opening in 1900.

In transportation, Nashville would see the arrival of trains in 1859, mule-drawn streetcars in 1865, only to have them replaced by Electric trolleys in 1889 and, in 1896, the first automobile is driven in Nashville.

Nashville would also see its first professional baseball game at Athletic Field in 1885 and its first football game following in 1890.

In utilities, Nashville would see the worlds 1st airmail arrive by balloon in 1877, telephones would appear that same year and five years later, in 1882, Nashville would see it’s first electric light.

In the later part of the 19th century Nashville would have two major celebrations Nashville’s Centennial in 1880, followed by the Centennial Exposition in 1897.

© Jan Duke 2005

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