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War Memorial Auditorium

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For the Rochester, New York venue, see Blue Cross Arena.

The War Memorial Auditorium is a 1,661-seat performance hall located in Nashville, Tennessee. It is located across the street from, and is governed by, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, and is also adjacent to the Tennessee State Capitol.

History

The Tennessee War Memorial An Enduring Tribute by the State of Tennessee, The County of Davidson, and the City of Nashville to Their Sons and Daughters Who Served the Nation on Land, on Sea, and in the Air.

“The General Assembly passed the Tennessee Memorial Act known as Chapter 122 of the Public Acts of 1919. In brief, this act provides that all of the property bounded between Union Street, Sixth and Seventh Avenues and Cedar Street should be acquired by the state, and therein should be located an office building to accommodate the various branches of the state government located out of the state capitol, a memorial hall for public assemblages, and memorial parks. The act especially declares that what is proposed to be done came from ‘the duty of the state of Tennessee to make adequate recognition of the heroic valor of the sons of the state who have served the United States government in the European War just closed, bringing great honor to the commonwealth.

The architect and designer for this project was Nashville architect Edward Dougherty, affiliated as an associate with McKim, Mead, and White of New York on the design. A central courtyard surrounded by Doric columns features tablets inscribed with names of 3,400 Tennesseans who died in World War I. Above the front steps to the entrance of the War Memorial Auditorium, a carving reads:

AMERICA IS PRIVILEGED TO SPEND HER BLOOD AND HER MIGHT FOR THE PRINCIPLES THAT GAVE HER BIRTH AND HAPPINESS AND THE PEACE WHICH SHE HAS TREASURED. WOODROW WILSON

The above statement is a reference from 8:30 p.m. on April 2, 1917, where President Woodrow Wilson delivered his message before a joint session of Congress, recommending that a state of war be declared between the United States and the imperial German government. Realizing that the war looming ahead would be a costly one, Wilson said, “The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.” Almost a decade later, on the September 21, 1925, the War Memorial Building was dedicated. During the dedication ceremony Tennessee’s World War I hero, Sgt. Alvin C. York, was escorted down the aisle as the band played Dixie.

he auditorium originally seated 2,200, with stunning design features and near perfect acoustics. "Youth" is the name of the heroic statue which stands in the center of the courtyard holding a Nike in his open left palm, symbolizing victory in the war. Belle Kinney Scholz was the sculptor of the statue. She also built the Confederate Women's Monument at the southwest corner of the building. To the south end of the large plaza in front of the War Memorial are monuments to the Korean War (built by Russ Faxon in 1992; Russ also built the Oh Roy statue that sits inside of the Ryman Auditorium) and the Vietnam War Monument (built by Alan LeQuire in 1986; Alan also built the Parthenon’s Athena and the Music Circle’s Musica). The military branch of the Tennessee State Museum is on the ground floor of the southern end of the building.

The building was recognized with a Gold Medal Award by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) in 1925, the highest honor that the AIA can bestow.

From 1939 to 1943, the War Memorial Auditorium served as the fourth home of the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry was performed here from about 1939 through 1943, when the Opry moved to the larger Ryman Auditorium. The Opry members who were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry family during this time at War Memorial Auditorium include Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, and Minnie Pearl, just to name a few. On May 3, 2010, after the current Grand Ole Opry House flooded, the Opry returned to the War Memorial Auditorium for its first public performance there in over 66 years, and continued as one of the venues that hosted the Opry until the current Opry House was restored.

Nashville's capitol hill and grounds that surround War Memorial Auditorium has changed greatly since the early days. The area in which the War Memorial Building resides was originally known as Memorial Square, and it consisted of the War Memorial Building, the courtyard and fountain, and the State Capitol Building. The building has hosted three United States Presidents on their campaign trails, one United States Vice President, numerous Tennessee Governor Inaugurations, and an untold array of artists across all genres.

Current

Whatever the decade or style of music, the venue is popular to artists and audiences alike for its open floor and seated configuration, which gives the option of sitting or standing during the performance. The wide open floor of the auditorium accommodates a variety of seating configurations, tables, and risers for near limitless audience configurations. With pleasing acoustics and a charming art deco aesthetic, the space remains a top choice for a multitude of special events. A grand wooden stage and proscenium meet a large, deep open floor with a balcony that surrounds. The high sweeping ceiling of the auditorium is adorned with stunning square patterned art deco inlays. In recent years the venue was featured in Carrie Underwood’s 2006 single "Don't Forget to Remember Me" and Jewel's 2010 single, "Satisfied."

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