NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Lower Broadway in Nashville has seen many changes over the years, starting as a core for trade, then a hotspot for country music, later falling on hard times, once again bouncing back, and now a disturbing trend has taken over – violent crimes are on the rise.
Davidson County historian, Carole Bucy, has seen the evolution of Lower Broadway. ‘Where am I?’ is one of the things I say, but then I see the liveliness and the energy that comes out of all of these activities.”
Like Bucy, recently retired Chief Curator for the Tennessee State Museum Dan Pomeroy has spent half a century marveling at the evolution. “That district is really the heart and soul of the beginning of Nashville.”
Once known as Broad Street, the strip off the Cumberland River served as a hub for merchants in the early 1800s, turning into hardware shops and feed stores that moved Nashville’s economy into the 20th century.
“It was very vibrant even throughout the depression,” said Bucy.
It wasn’t long after the heartbeat of honky-tonk pounded for the first time, as big-name stars played at the Grand Ole Opry – once housed in the Ryman Auditorium.
“The Ernest Tubb record shop is very important in this narrative,” said Pomeroy.
In the late 40s, performers would head just across the street from Tootsie’s to visit with Tubb for his radio show Midnight Jamboree, which still airs today. Jump to the 60s, when Beasley Furniture Company on the corner of 3rd Avenue set a new evolution in motion.
Shortly after, the area fell on hard times. “You could go up and down Lower Broadway and building after building was abandoned,” said Pomeroy.
“There was a big strip club,” he recalled. “And, there were citizens who knew things had to change.”
Many credit professional sports for laying the groundwork in the 90s that sparked the boom on Broadway seen today.
“Ice hockey! Ice hockey in Nashville, Tennessee! Who would have ever thought?” exclaimed Pomeroy.
In 1996, the Bridgestone Arena opened. Then came the recruitment of an NFL team, now known as the Tennessee Titans.
“What’s happened in the last 20 years is almost jaw-dropping,” said Pomeroy.
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Country artists also invested in the growth. Their names are on establishments drawing fans ready to party, even in the morning. “I see the tractors pulling people, and I see tourists buses going back and forth,” said Pomeroy. “Clearly you get to a point where government needs to step in and sort of tweak things.”
That could lead to Lower Broadway’s next transformation. Bucy expects the Christmas bombing of 2020 will force yet another rebirth. “It will depend on what ends up happening to the buildings on Second Avenue.”
They believe Nashvillians should all weigh in on the next genesis.
“The people who are on Metro Council, they’re going to be making decisions that will affect the future of this city and the effect of the quality of life for each and every one of us,” said Pomeroy. “Everyone needs to be tuned to that.”