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Nashville History

Until the late-18th century, numerous Native American tribes populated the area around modern-day Nashville—including the Cherokee, the Chickasaw and the Shawnee. Recorded Nashville history began in 1780 when Fort Nashborough, the first permanent European settlement in the area, was built on the banks of the Cumberland River (a replica of the original fort stands at the foot of Broadway).  Many of the city's residents fought in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812—hence, Tennessee was known as "The Volunteer State." While originally a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War, Nashville was occupied by Federal troops in 1862 and remained in Union hands until the end of the war. Then, at the point of Nashville's history when reconstruction began to bring recovery to the city, a spate of colleges sprang up—including Vanderbilt University and historically African-American Fisk University. Residents were so proud of Nashville's history of recovering from the war, and its educational and cultural offerings, that it nicknamed itself the Athens of the South, even going so far as to build a replica of the Parthenon for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897. So how did a Southern cultural capital become the home of country music? Radio station WSM began broadcasting the hugely popular Grand Ole Opry radio show in 1925, and Nashville suddenly found itself a new nickname—Music City. Honky-tonks on Lower Broadway teemed with country music hopefuls, and fans started to visit Nashville, hoping for a glimpse of their favorite. In the late-1990s of Nashville's history, the city became home to two professional sports teams, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Predators. In 2001, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened a shiny new facility and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts also debuted downtown, strengthening the city's cultural offerings. More recently in Nashville history, a spectacular Neoclassic concert hall—the Schermerhorn Symphony Center—was built to house the Nashville Symphony. Nowadays, healthcare and communications are top industries in Nashville, but country music and its related tourism still reign supreme as the major forces movin' and shakin' this Southern city.