By Michelle Shocklee
If you've ever visited Nashville, you probably ventured downtown to Broadway Street. This famous avenue in the heart of Music City is known throughout the world for its honky-tonks, some with recognizable names like Luke Bryan's Luke's 32 Bridge and Blake Shelton's Ole Red. The music down Broadway Street is LOUD and the crowds are THICK, but it's a place most visitors to Nashville want to experience at least once.
|Nashville's Broadway Street|
Yet Broadway Street hasn't always been a crazy, noisy tourist attraction.
Nashville was founded in the late 1770s by pioneers from North Carolina and began as a fort on the banks of the Cumberland River. In 1784 it was incorporated as a town by the North Carolina legislature and became a city in 1806. In 1843 it became the state capital.
|Riverboats on the Cumberland|
The Cumberland River was a vital part of the city's growth. Not only did riverboats provide transportation to and from the city for newly arriving residents, import and export depended on the waterway. Broad Street, as it was originally known, ended at the shipping docks and wharfs on the Cumberland. It became a street lined with hardware stores, feed stores, and various other businesses.
During the Civil War, both armies used the Cumberland to access Nashville. One soldier's diary describes thousands of Union soldiers spilling out from newly arrived ships and heading into the city up Broad Street. The famous street appears in my book Count the Nights by Stars when Priscilla follows it in 1897 to attend the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and in 1961 when Audrey and Jason walk down its sidewalks, enjoying the Christmas decorations in department store windows.
|Looking down Broad Street toward the Cumberland River|
Nashville grew after the war. Not only with freed slaves, but with displaced southerners. The city flourished. The first public high school was built on Broad Street. Union Station opened October 9, 1900 at the far end of Broad Street as a Louisville & Nashville Railroad station. It had a long history before it shut down in October 1979. When a new post office was built on Broad Street in 1935, it was located adjacent to Union Station. A connecting passageway between the two was used to transport mail to and from trains for more than three decades.
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at www.MichelleShocklee.com