This week’s featured ADoor Nashville doors belong to a very musical and historic Nashville landmark, The Ryman Auditorium.
The Ryman opened its doors for the first time in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. It was built by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman who owned several area saloons. The idea for the auditorium came about to Ryman to be a tabernacle for the influential revivalist of his era, Samuel Porter Jones.
Legend has it that the first time Ryman heard Jones speak, he went with the plan to cause ruckus because he was fed up with his preaching against drinking and gambling. However, the words Ryman heard Jones speak that day moved him so deeply, he vowed to build him a great tabernacle to preach in.
Two years prior to its official public opening, the Tabernacle had its first event. Only the foundation and the six-foot-high-walls were completed at this time, but the people still came in hoards to hear Rev. Sam Jones speak. The Nashville Daily American reported of that day, “All 5,000 seats were easily filled and the seats that were holding 10 and 20 were made to hold 15 and 30.”
In mid-1897, the Tabernacle’s seating capacity was increased to 6,000 to accommodate the Confederate Veterans Association reunion, which was scheduled to take place at the Tabernacle later that year.
A few years later, the historic stage was built at the Tabernacle. Completed for $730, the stage was constructed for the New York Metropolitan Opera Company’s production of Carmen, The Barber of Seville and Faust shows in Nashville.
Ryman’s death in 1904 led to the renaming of the Tabernacle to the Ryman Auditorium, in his honor.
A fun fact about the Ryman is that during the early 1900s, the Ryman hosted two U.S. Presidents: President Teddy Roosevelt on Oct. 22, 1907 and President Taft on Nov. 9, 1911. Aside from Presidents, other notable, influential and historic speakers to lecture from the Ryman stage include Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy in 1913 (this was the Ryman’s first sold out event), Charlie Chaplin in 1918 and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1938.
In 1943, the Grand Ole Opry moved to the Ryman, which welcomed decades of musical performances by Country music icons including Earl Scruggs, Chet Atkins, Little Jimmy Dickins, Hank Williams Sr., Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Louis Armstrong, Emmylou Harris and many more.
In 1969, National Life Insurance announced plans to built a theater specifically for the Grand Ole Opry. March 15, 1974 was the last time for the Grand Ole Opry to be broadcast from the Ryman stage. The next day, March 16, was the first time for the Grand Ole Opry to perform from its new location at Opryland.
In Feb. 2012, it was announced that the Ryman stage would be getting a new floor for the first time in 61 years, only the third time for the floor to be replaced since it opened.
Since then, shows and performances have continued to grace the Ryman stage weekly. On Jan. 3, 2001, the Ryman Auditorium was declared a National Historic Landmark, where it continues to grace Nashville with its rich history and many stories to this day.