Ryman Auditorium is one of Nashville’s most popular destinations. Aside from being a beloved gathering place, this landmark is also home to a rich history that Nashville has been a witness to for over a hundred years. It’s always good to look back and check out the key dates that shaped the Ryman auditorium into the historic landmark that it is today.
By understanding its history, you’ll be able to appreciate the Ryman auditorium even more. Let’s start by going to the very beginning of its journey.
On May 10, 1885, a wealthy Nashville-bred riverboat captain named Thomas Ryman, by chance heard a charismatic evangelist named Sam Jones speak at a tent revival. The place where Ryman had heard of Jones was roughly three blocks from where the historic landmark now stands.
Jones was able to inspire and captivate the riverboat captain. Ryman - who once put money at the center of his life was changed anew and he began devoting himself to God and religion. Aside from their love of God, Ryman and Jones also shared another dream - creating a tabernacle that will serve as the center of praise for the city of Nashville.
Turning dreams into reality, Jones and Ryman began what was the start of the Ryman Auditorium. The people of Nashville heeded their calling and began donating money to help the cause. By May 9, 1890, the foundations of the Ryman Auditorium were established and it was called the Tabernacle.
Jones led his first meeting at the Tabernacle on May 25, 1890, and it continued up until June 1. From there, the tent was removed and construction began on what will soon be the Ryman Auditorium. No events were held in the place up until May 4, 1892, almost two years after Jones held his first meeting.
The very first event held at the Tabernacle was the May Music Festival that featured the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. This was an iconic event and the first of the Ryman Theater schedule history. The concert itself wasn’t for entertainment, it benefitted the Ladies Hermitage Association.
The Rise Of A Landmark
After the long wait, Reverend Sam Jones was scheduled to speak at the Tabernacle once again on May 30, 1892, in front of 4,000 people. However, Jones was unable to attend the service and in his stead was Reverend Stewart. The night Jones canceled was dubbed as the “No Show Jones.”
Over the next couple of years, the Tabernacle was made the venue for many iconic events in Nashville. There were commencement rites, concerts, and of course, services about the word of God.
The next major accomplishment was on April 19, 1894, which saw The Salvation Army Wedding of Captain Harry E. Roe and Captain May Ingram. This was the first-ever wedding to be held in the Tabernacle.
The Start of The Ryman
The board that managed the Tabernacle met to talk about an upcoming performance of Carmen by The Metropolitan Opera which was to be held on October 23, 1901. It was one of the biggest and grandest shows to be held at the venue with a guarantee of $10,000.
With the help of a 50-member board who each pledged $200, the Tabernacle was able to form a $10,000 budget. This was used to create a stage and opera-style boxes for the Tabernacle. These were the very foundations of the Ryman Auditorium but as you may know, this was just the start.
Tragedy struck the community on December 23, 1904, when Captain Thomas Ryman died. His funeral was held on Christmas Day, which Rev. Jones led. At the funeral, Jones took a vote to rename The Tabernacle into the Ryman Auditorium and his suggestion was met with a standing ovation.
Rev. Jones would follow his friend into greener pastures on October 15, 1906, when he died in his train cabin on his trip back home to Georgia. His memorial service was held at the Ryman on October 28.
Over the next couple of years, the Ryman Auditorium would undergo many expansions with the help of the Nashville government, as well as the people of the city. It went from being a tented venue into the marvelous structure that we see today. It all started thanks to Ryman and Jones.
The auditorium would go on to accommodate many historic figures and events. Some of the people that held events at the venue include President Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Helen Keller, and countless icons in the field of music. It’s amazing to think that on the stage, were those people that helped shape the history of America.
Problems And Revival
Of course, things weren’t always good for the Ryman Auditorium. The venue faced possible demolition because of plans to create a chapel called “The Little Church of Opryland.” Thanks to locals and various other people, however, the demolition wasn’t completed.
From 1930 to the late 1980s, the Ryma would experience a state of dormancy through which it experienced urban decay as everything else around it changed while it remained the same. In 1989 however, the Gaylord Entertainment group began improving the venue’s interior and exterior as well.
Since then, the Ryman would continue to be improved with the help of private firms as well as the government. Major events were being held in the 2362-auditorium seating venue again and it’s as if the Ryman is now back to its former glory.
Today, the Ryman stands as one of Nashville’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a place that’s very popular among the locals and is also a part of the plan when tourists visit the city. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know that the Ryman will always have a place in Nashville.
The Ryman truly is a place worth visiting. It’s not just because of its rich history, but also because of its amazing facade and architecture. If you want to check out the Auditorium first hand, you should book a ticket to it and see for yourself the rich history of Nashville.
WRITTEN BYDaria Brown