The last grand turn-of-the-century hotel in Nashville, the Hermitage Hotel was built between 1908 and 1910. It is the city’s best extant example of a Beaux Arts-style commercial building. Its original architect was Tennessee native Edwin Carpenter, who received his architectural training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the famed Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Carpenter designed a building of abundant classical details, with coupled Ionic columns, polychrome terra cotta detailing, and an enriched entablature highlighting the east facade entrance. The main lobby and mezzanine are spectacular examples of early twentieth-century interior design in Tennessee. The hotel quickly became a favorite gathering place for the rich and politically powerful. In the mid-century, a big band radio show featuring Frances Craig was broadcast from its basement restaurant and dance floor.
Of the many famous gatherings and political events that have occurred at the Hermitage Hotel, the most significant came in 1920, when supporters and opponents of woman suffrage both used the hotel as a headquarters for their campaigns to sway the votes of state legislators. The suffragists won and Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state needed for the ratification of the woman suffrage amendment.
Changing transportation preferences and downtown stagnation contributed to a steady decline in the hotel’s business, and it closed its doors in the late 1970s, seemingly destined for the wrecking ball. In 1980, though, the Nashville firm of Gresham, Smith, and Partners restored the building into hotel suites. Another round of restoration in 1994-95, directed by architect Stan Topol, returned the Hermitage Hotel to its past architectural grandeur.