In Nashville, Old Becomes NewHigh-Class, High-Style Boutique Hotels Are Moving Into Historic Downtown Buildings, Expanding Options For Luxury Travelers To Music City
If you haven’t been to Nashville, Tennessee, in the last five years, you’d hardly recognize the city—at least when it comes to booking a place to stay.
In years past, Nashville hotels “didn’t have to be good; they just had to be open,” says Ben Webster. Previously with the J House Greenwich, a boutique hotel in Connecticut, Webster is now general manager of Nashville’s Fairlane Hotel. Opened last spring on Union Street, the 81-room, midcentury-inspired boutique property was among the first to bring a new wave of hotels to downtown.
Housed in a 1970s former bank building, Fairlane doesn’t resemble a hotel from the outside. Save for a few interior details (such as original patterns on elevator doors and the Union Teller Coffee Counter off the lobby, serving $2 cups of coffee), it’s been completely transformed from its former state. The hospitality mentality at Fairlane, however—much like its retro-inspired Penthouse, complete with smoked-mirror ceilings and a suspended fireplace—is a throwback.
“We’re bringing back a simpler time,” says Webster. Nashville has an opportunity to be one of the best hospitality cities in the country, he adds, and the city can achieve that by developing relationship-based hotels that keep people coming back.
Yet Fairlane isn’t doing this alone. It’s positioned along a few-block radius that locals call Boutique Row, where several other hotels—while very different in style and design—share that goal.
Noelle is a 224-room hotel opened in December 2017 that pays homage to its 1929 building’s first life as Noel Place, one of Nashville’s very first luxury hotels. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and plays up its art deco roots throughout the hotel, drawing on local makers for inspiration.
For example, the first-floor Drug Store Coffee, prided for its 10-minutes-or-less complimentary coffee room service, is a collaboration with Andy Mumma of Nashville’s Barista Parlor. And in a light-filled space adjacent to the check-in desk, Nashville stylist Libby Callaway curates locally designed items in the retail Keep Shop.
Further playing off the local creative scene, the 144-room Bobby Hotel made its splashy debut in late spring 2018, evoking the city’s historic Printers Alley (home to Nashville’s first nightclub district in the 1940s). Decked out in maximalist, garage-inspired style, the seductive lobby features an awe-inspiring chandelier constructed of car parts, marble columns and heavy use of industrial metals, along with an enchanting red-carpet grand staircase.
The rooftop lounge at Bobby provides panoramic views of Nashville and a vibrant pool scene during summer months—and is also home to a 1956-retrofitted scenic cruiser bus, from which cocktails and snacks are served.
This spring, four more historic Printers Alley buildings were reimagined to form Dream Nashville, an 168-room hotel with art deco design by Nashville native Meyer Davis Studio. With locations in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, the nightlife-focused Dream brand counts Nashville as its first foray into the South. Dirty Little Secret, its on-site music and entertainment venue; and Back Bar, which will host music programming spanning genres from EDM to Latin and even silent disco, are shaking up Nashville’s nightlife scene, helping it shed its previous reputation as a country-only town.