Five buildings that were the heart of Nashville business in the early 20th Century
"The Nashville Financial Historic District is eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion C for architecture as a notable collection of Classical Revival designs and as some of the city's oldest extant examples of tall office building construction. The architects who designed the buildings in the district represent skilled architects practicing in the city during the decades preceding World War II when formal architectural training became widespread. The classical vocabulary in the district is characteristic of financial institutions before World War II, which sought to convey their stability through the timeless qualities of classical architecture...
"The Nashville Financial Historic District is further eligible under Criterion A for its association with the business history of the city and its role as a major regional center for the banking and securities industries. Nashville built a reputation as the "Wall Street of the South" with the founding and consolidation of several banks that grew to influence and participate in business matters on a regional scale. The municipal bond industry also found a home in Nashville in the early twentieth century, as did other securities businesses. Banks and financial businesses in Nashville centered their offices around the intersections of Third and Fourth Avenues and Union Street. The Fourth Avenue and Union Street intersection lost its landmark buildings to urban renewal projects and the construction of modern office towers in the 1960s and 1970s. Third Avenue and Union Street, by contrast, retains the major financial buildings that built the corridor's reputation in the early twentieth century.
"1. Stahlman Building, 232 Third Avenue, North "Designed by architects Carpenter and Blair, the Stahlman Building was constructed in 1906-07. The building rises to a height of 167 feet and fronts 105 feet on Third Avenue, North, and 145 feet on Union Street. The twelve-story building follows Louis Sullivan's three-part vocabulary for tall office buildings. The first floor of the two-story 'base' of the building originally housed the banking hall of Fourth National Bank, the floors above - 'the shaft' - provided office space for lawyers, insurance companies, and other businesses, and the top or 'capital' of the building is a wide, two story band that caps the shaft of the building. The original overhanging cornice (gone) completed the visual allusion to the capital of a column.
"The Stahlman Building is constructed primarily of Bowling Green limestone with a limestone foundation, steel girder frame, and flat roof. The Third Avenue (west) fašade is seven bays wide, while the Union Street (north) facade is ten bays wide. The principal facade of the building faces west on Third Avenue. It is symmetrical, with six fluted limestone Greek Doric columns inset on the first and second floors surrounding the principal entrance. The name 'STAHLMAN' appears in metal letters on the architrave centered over the entrance. The double plate glass doors of the entrance, a modern replacement of bronze doors, are surrounded by a wide classical enframement. A projecting decorative stone frieze tops the entablature and creates a visual break between the base section of the skyscraper form and the shaft above. A similar appearance is created on the north facade by a series of eleven square pilasters topped with a band of limestone carved in an acanthus leaf motif...The classical detailing of the building invites the pedestrian's attention with finely detailed egg-and-dart decoration carved in relief below the sills of first floor windows...
"The shaft of the building rises another seven stories before the articulation of the capital section begins...Vertical bands of limestone surround the windows on the shaft section, while the rest of the walls are brick. The brick was originally yellow but was painted white in the mid-twentieth century to give the building a more uniform appearance...On the third floor and above, all offices are afforded a window through the central air shaft that forms the core of the building. Although the original atrium skylight above the second floor elevator lobby has been filled in with a flat asphalt roof, the space above remains open.
"2. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 226 Third Avenue, North
"The Federal Reserve Bank was previously individually listed in the National Register on October 10, 1984. The Federal Reserve Bank occupied this building for 36 years, until it moved to a new facility on Eighth Avenue in 1958.
"The building was constructed in 1922 to the designs of Atlanta-based architect A. Ten Eyck Brown in association with a leading Nashville architectural firm, Marr and Holman. It is one of the city's best examples of Classical Revival style, displaying a massive portico of four Ionic columns on its west-facing Third Avenue facade. A large classical pediment lined with dentil molding tops the portico, and the building has a flat roof. The architrave originally read 'Nashville Branch Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta,' but that inscription was removed after the bank left the building in the 1950s.
"3. Nashville Trust Building, 231 Third Avenue, North
"The second headquarters of the Nashville Trust Company was designed in 1902 by Baxter J. Hodge, a Nashville native who trained informally as an architect and is best known for his Commerce Building at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897. The building originally included only the north side of the present structure, which was enlarged as the company grew in 1914. The building was changed slightly in the 1914 expansion, principally through alterations to the cornice line. A raised parapet section containing two stone date markers (1889 and 1902) was removed and replaced with a simpler, classically-styled balustrade. The date markers moved to the new wing addition, and the 1902 marker was replaced with a 1914 one. However, the southern wing addition continued Hodge's Classical Revival design, as each bay of the addition, like the 1902 section, is composed of an arched second-floor window framed by Composite pilasters. As a result of the addition, the two-story Nashville Trust Building has an asymmetrical design on the facade, unusual for Classical Revival buildings, with a projecting section for its entrance on the north end of the facade.
"Two engaged polished granite columns of the Corinthian order flank an arched window with a keystone and support the limestone architrave, on which "Nashville Trust Co." is carved in relief. The bays of the building are divided by massive square pilasters topped by Corinthian capitals...Though it appears to be two stories, the Nashville Trust Building was originally composed of an open, high-ceilinged lobby space with a "colonnaded balcony" that provided additional space for meeting rooms with bank vaults below...The space was divided into two stories by the 1970s. In 1998, the building underwent a renovation that removed the dropped ceiling for the second floor and restored the 25-foot coffered ceiling and Ionic pilasters that framed the lobby. The renovation included the addition of a mezzanine designed to echo one found in the building originally. Original iron railings from the rear of the building were reused on the mezzanine, and the bank vault became a conference room.
"4. American Trust Building, 235 Third Avenue, North
"Designed in 1926 by Nashville architect Henry C. Hibbs, the American Trust Building rises to fifteen stories on the southwest corner of Union Street and Third Avenue, North. Hibbs completed the skyscraper form of the building in the 1920s, building onto the existing 1909 five-story structure that was originally home to the Union Bank and Trust Company.3 This impressive Classical Revival design echoes many of the characteristics of its neighbor, the Stahlman Building, but possesses richer decoration that lends it a less austere quality. The exterior of the American Trust Building is remarkably unchanged. The dominant feature of the building, which Hibbs incorporated into Sullivan's three-part composition, is the Ionic engaged columns and pilasters that rise four stories around the entire base of the building. All are fluted and constructed of marble...As in the other buildings in the district, the American Trust Building has experienced a series of remodelings, principally to the interior, as it served successive tenants and was updated to maintain a modern appeal for the banks and offices that occupied it.
"5. Nashville Trust Building, 315 Union Street
"The 1925-26 Nashville Trust Building, designed by Nashville architects Asmus and Clark, made an unusual L-shaped connection to the company's older building on Third Avenue (#3). The base of the 1925 tower echoes the fenestration of the 1914 building...
"The building was restored in 1995 after years of sitting vacant since the Nashville City Bank, a descendant of the Nashville Trust, was bought out in 1988. The lobby's 38-foot ceilings were restored, as were the marble floors and the decorative dentil molding on the square piers supporting the lobby ceiling. These piers feature a stylized torch motif in relief at the capital. The marble elevator lobby with original brass elevator doors opens off the eastern entrance. Regions Bank made the building its local headquarters in 1995 and has adaptively reused the old public banking floor, retaining its marble wainscoting."