Nashville, city (1990 pop. 487,969), state capital, coextensive with Davidson co., central Tenn., on the Cumberland River, in a fertile farm area; inc. as a city 1806, merged with Davidson co. 1963. It is a port of entry and an important commercial and industrial center. The city has railroad shops and diverse manufacturing, including wood, glass, and rubber products; shoes; aircraft parts; and steel. Nashville is noted for its music industry; it is a major recording center, especially for country music. It also has many publishing houses producing religious materials, school annuals, magazines, and telephone directories. Large health-care, insurance, and finance companies have their headquarters in Nashville.
The city was founded (1779) by a group of pioneers under James Robertson (who is buried there). Fort Nashborough was built on the banks of the river, and the next year 60 families arrived to settle the area. As the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace, the settlement developed early as a cotton center and river port and later as a railroad hub. It became the permanent capital of the state in 1843. After the fall of Fort Donelson in Feb., 1862, Nashville was abandoned to Union troops under D. C. Buell and became an important Union base for the remainder of the Civil War. Union Gen. G. H. Thomas won a decisive victory (Dec. 15–16, 1864) over J. B. Hood there.
Sometimes called the "Athens of the South," Nashville has many buildings of classical design, including a replica of the Parthenon, built in 1897. Among its many institutions of higher education are Vanderbilt Univ., Fisk Univ., Tennessee State Univ., Meharry Medical College, American Baptist College, Lipscomb Univ., and Belmont Univ. Points of interest include the capitol (completed 1855), with the tomb of James K. Polk; the War Memorial Building; Ryman Auditorium, the home of country music's Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974; the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum; the Bluebird Cafe, drawing songwriters and new and established performers; the Schermerhorm Symphony Center; a replica of Fort Nashborough; and several old churches and antebellum homes. The Predators (hockey) and Tennessee Titans (football) are the city's professional sports teams. Nearby is the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson.