I know, you’re wondering “Just what evidence do I have for B. being a giant nerd?”  Well, let me even begin to tell you about the hours I have spent on the LOC site.  Just flipping through you can learn shit, like we apparently had a huge child labor problem a hundred years ago, kids working in the mills, kids skipping school to sell papers, etc.  And the people documenting it for the government were concerned.  The captions go into the ill health effects and the dangers of getting caught being truant.

Anyway, I’m still thinking about those pictures from St. Petersburg.  There’s something said for seeing those spaces as they were then melding right into how they are now.

So, in furtherance of trying to tempt any of you with a better camera and cooler Photoshopping skills, let me show you the kids of things the LOC has in its collection.


Here’s a newsie being given a talking-to for being truant.  I love the cop ignoring the situation.  Clearly this is downtown somewhere but someone other than me would have to recognize where.


More Newsies, and I think this is clearly the corner of Broadway and Second, right?


Oooo.  Here’s one from the Civil War.  I think this is basically as if you were standing on Demonbreun behind Union Station looking towards the capitol.  Where the tents in this photo are is probably where the Frist is now, if I’m acclimated right.


It’d be interesting to try to figure out exactly where this one is.  This is also the Civil War, the Union line, and though it’s hard to see, that’s Franklin Pike running from diagonal left to right in the picture.  Someone with more Civil War knowledge than me is going to be able to say, by looking at that fort in the distance about what we’re looking at.


The state capitol during the Civil War.  Note the guns. And all of the houses that don’t exist any more.


Back to the 1910s, here are some kids they found working at the mills making stockings and socks.


The Fisk chapel, which is still there and looks exactly the same, except that the road out front has been closed to traffic and there’s no fence around it and it doesn’t look so out in the country anymore.


Here’s the mill in the early 60s, judging by the cars.

18 thoughts on “Nashville

  1. Thank you thank you thank you, B. I worked in the State Archives for several weeks on an article that involved a lot of Nashville history, and I just adored wading through all those historic photos of the city and trying to piece together what was which. It was one of my favorite projects.

    A portion of that column in the fifth photo, or at least one of its neighbors, is standing at my alma mater right now. I go over there sometimes and pet it while smiling goofily. I expect the campus police to stop and question me the next time I’m there.

    Why yes, I did minor in history. Why do you ask?

  2. A relative of mine lived in one of those houses just down from the Capital on Cherry Street during the occupation and Civil War. I have a picture looking up that street toward the Capital from the 1880’s.

  3. Those are fascinating. I didn’t understand in one of the pictures how you could see the Capitol from Union Station, but then it occurred to me that you probably could have when all the buildings weren’t there.

    In the late 1800s, there were two synagogues downtown, Vine Street Temple (which is now just The Temple, and has since moved to Belle Meade) and a smaller synagogue that was simply called the “Fifth Avenue Shul” (which is now Sherith Israel on West End). When Sherith Israel was downtown it was located next to the Ryman Auditorium. Vine Street is now Commerce Street, and there’s an historical marker where the synagogue used to be.

    Here’s Vine Street (a lot prettier than the Temple is now IMHO):

    And the Fifth Avenue Shul in the shadow of the Mother Church:

  4. Man, we really got robbed as a city when they tore down the Vine Street Temple. What an awesome looking building! And the Fifth Avenue Shul is so cute. Oh my god, I could just eat it up!

    Here is my question. Why is the Jewish cemetery where it is? Were the Germans who settled in Germantown and Salemtown and Buena Vista primarily Jewish?

    Ooo. I found this and think I answered my own question:

    It does appear that the Jews who settled here were German and Polish. Not that those are exactly the same thing.

  5. Clearly this is downtown somewhere but someone other than me would have to recognize where.

    1800’s business directory (pre-phone company, I’m assuming) gives you a few candidates:

    Cigars and Tobacco.


    Butler W M, 30 Union.
    Fite & James, 61 Public Square.
    Floersh J A, 81 Church.
    Moore В F & Co, 17 N Cherry.
    Rosenheim & Brother, 11 N Cherry
    Whorley J & L, 47 S Market.
    Woolwine & Scudder, 70 Church.

    More old documents:

  6. Oooo. Here’s one from the Civil War. I think this is basically as if you were standing on Demonbreun behind Union Station looking towards the capitol. Where the tents in this photo are is probably where the Frist is now, if I’m acclimated right.

    Unless that’s a mirrored image, it doesn’t work. Perspective is wrong. If you’re standing at Union Station and looking up towards Capitol Hill, the building would be on your right, not your left.

    I’m thinking that this is on what is now the Bicentennial Mall side, sorta from where the Farmer’s Market is today.

  7. Isn’t it on your right in that picture? I think it’s from about right here:,+tn&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=51.089971,114.257812&ie=UTF8&ll=36.153363,-86.788229&spn=0.025677,0.05579&t=h&z=15&layer=c&cbll=36.155306,-86.784545&panoid=vcdSnTEuED21yYK3dlRv_g&cbp=12,22.955292879418476,,0,5

    (Ha, if that mess works). I think the train station has always been where the train station was. Union Station might be newer than the building there, but it’s got to be the same spot, I think.

  8. B, I think the cemetery location question is a little more complicated than that. Because the original synagogues were downtown, which strongly suggests that that’s where most of the members of the congregations lived (you’re supposed to be able to walk there on Shabbat if you’re Orthodox, which the earliest congregations were). Goldni surely knows more about this than I do, but I think that if most of Nashville’s early Jews had lived in or around Germantown, that’s where the shuls would have been. I figure that the cemetery was located far enough away from the city center to feel healthy (i.e. they wouldn’t have tried to put a burial ground downtown) and for the land to be relatively cheap.

  9. Ach. I”m having a hard time explaining this, but I still stand by the notion that the perspective is wrong. If I’m looking towards capitol hill from behind the rail lines, I would expect the hill to rise on the right hand side, with the building trailing away from left to right. Here, it looks like it’s coming towards you.

    Anyhow: The preservation site says that this is at Spring Street, so maybe we’re both wrong – depending on where Civil War era Spring Street was.

  10. Yes, but the Vine Street synagogue seems like it was within walking distance of much of Germantown and whatever Hope Gardens was called then.

    Hmm. Where’s a historian of Nashville Jewish history when you need one?

    I’m sure you’re right, in part, about the cemetery, since it’s so close to the old potter’s field, but I still wonder. To bring up a slight tangent, Zora Neale Hurston’s brother used to live over on Lafayette and he attended medical school at Meharry and thought nothing of navigating that distance without a car. I bring that up just to keep in mind for myself that people got around town with ease differently than they do now.

  11. Oh, I see what you’re saying! Ha, only took me all afternoon to understand. Sorry Andy, but you’re right. Either you’re looking at that from 1st Avenue or from the Farmer’s Market. You are right.

    I’m going to go try to find out where Spring Street was.

  12. I was pretty close with my guess about First avenue. Spring is Commerce, supposedly, but that picture shows trains and none of the civil war maps I can find show tracks on Spring, only behind the capitol, basically where Jefferson is which seems more in line with your theory that this is taken from about where the Farmer’s market is. And there was a depot over there, according to the LOC map. And that road is still called “Spring Street” for the sake of the bridge.

    So, I therefore concede to you that this was taken from the Jefferson side of the capitol, from the old depot from the l&n.

  13. I couldn’t really tell you why the cemetery is where it is, but most Jews did live in the downtown/Germantown area back in the day. The cemetery is actually older than the synagogues.

  14. GoldnI, I’ve decided, after considering the Fisk picture, too, and how rural that looks, to decide to believe that the Jewish cemetery is where it is for two reasons. 1. It would have been far enough away from where people lived to feel like a good spot and, 2. since it was just off Buena Vista/is on the Clarksville Highway, it was easy enough to get to it. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the old potters’ field is right down the street from the cemetery.

    What I would be curious about at this point is whether they were the first folks to bury folks there or if the Native Americans were the folks who kind of set the tone for that being a good spot to stick people. Otherwise, honestly, it seems like you wouldn’t give up that land. It’s up above the flood plane, in a direction folks even then seemed likely to live and it’s close to town.

    Hmm. Makes me wonder.

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