September 17, 2009
Hermitage Hotel has come a long way to become 5-star hotel
By GEORGE ZEPP
A century ago last June, a group of wealthy Nashvillians gathered to launch the “Hotel Hermitage” project.
Stockholders of the newly chartered Hermitage Hotel Co. convened at the city’s Board of Trade building to name officers and select architects for the city’s first million-dollar lodging facility.
Flash forward 100 years. After a $17 million renovation in 2003, the Hermitage stands today as Tennessee‘s only five-star hotel.
The Hermitage Hotel had early links to New York City‘s famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. A Waldorf assistant manager was brought here to aid initial Hermitage manager Timothy Murphy with the Sept. 17, 1910, opening. Musicians from the Waldorf’s orchestra also played for the Nashville hotel’s debut.
The volume of remaining work on opening eve brought a last-minute rush of over night projects by a “double force” of craftsmen.
Project was delayed
Finishing touches for upper floors and the basement grill room delayed the building’s total opening until the next month.
“On the ninth floor of the hotel is located the convention hall which also will be used for balls or banquets. This room has a comfortable seating capacity of over a hundred,” The Nashville American reported the day before the September opening.
With its initial 250 mahogany-paneled guest rooms in high demand, early management may have decided the floor could produce more revenue if converted to more lodgings.
News accounts when the hotel opened talked about the Russian walnut paneling in the dining hall, “immense chandeliers” and the lobby’s Persian rugs and marble from Italy and Tennessee. They did not mention if plans for added building height had been abandoned.
A Nashville architect who has been on the roof in modern times suggested the steel posts might have once supported window-washing apparatus.
The hotel housed both sides of the suffragette battle for women’s voting rights in Tennessee in 1920. Later it rented space to a liquor store infamous for distributing free booze from special interests to nearby state legislators.
A long list of its famous guests includes everyone from Bette Davis to Bette Midler, Boss Crump to Billy Graham, Mickey Spillane to Steven Spielberg and Dinah Shore to the Dixie Chicks.
Hermitage Hotel highs and lows
Hermitage Hotel highs, lows
”¢ Cowboy actor Gene Autry checked in with his horse; a shoe company brought a live alligator to promote its hides.
”¢ Six U.S. presidents visited, from Taft to Kennedy, Nixon and LBJ.
”¢ Codes violations prompted the hotel’s 1977 closing; later renovations restored its glory.