Despite a long-simmering crush on Johnny Cash (that I’ll have you know existed long, long before he was portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line… not that there was anything wrong with THAT), I vehemently deny any affection for country music. And, for that reason, Nashville has never been high on my list of Cities I Must Visit. So when the time came to go to Nashville for the conference department’s annual site visit, when we “dry run” all the field sessions, I looked forward to the barbecue more than anything else.
Friends, I was WRONG, so very, very, wrong.
Over the next few months, the staff of the National Preservation Conference will be blogging about our experiences during this trip in Nashville. What we found was a city rich in history, yet amazingly hip. That music industry -- the one I thought of as Hee-Haw writ large -- transcends genres and displays infinitely more talent than you’ll find in the Billboard Top 40. The neighborhoods are charming, and tell stories of decline and revitalization, of visionaries who fought for a diverse and vibrant urban fabric. Civil War history is thick there -- The Battle of Nashville and the Battle of Franklin await discovery only miles from Lower Broad, where honky-tonks offer live music all day long and Hatch Show Print sells vintage letterpress posters alongside those for the hottest shows currently on tour. Fisk University helps tell the story of the civil rights movement and the important strides that were made in Nashville. The compact downtown includes icons such as the Ryman Auditorium, churches where Presidents worshiped, live music, residential lofts, the Tennessee State Capitol, live music, a state of the art symphony center, several historic hotels, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and live music. And preserving all of this -- the buildings, the history, the culture, the landscapes -- is a priority to the city and to the residents. This is a town of proud and extremely hospitable people, who made us feel welcome everywhere we went.
So, to prepare for Nashville, I recommend that you go get yourself some Jack Daniels and read our blog as we’ll be periodically filling you in on special Nashville places and stories. You can then make your own lists of “must-sees,” and “can’t misses” (because those are the only categories I came up with after two weeks in town).
And I wasn’t wrong about the barbecue. There is plenty of good ‘cue in Nashville, too.
Lori Feinman is the associate director for conferences and training in the Center for Preservation Leadership at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The 2009 National Preservation Conference will take place October 13-19 in Nashville. Registration opens on June 1.