On June 25 2001, the National Park Service formally designated Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium as a National Historic Landmark. Today, we are celebrating our 11th anniversary in remembrance of this special ceremony.
It is an incredible honor for the Mother Church of Country Music to be one of only 30 National Historic Landmarks in Tennessee. The National Park Service uses exceptionally selective criteria to evaluate potential National Historic Landmarks, only choosing places with astounding contribution to and significant representation of the American people, culture, history, and architecture.
The Ryman Auditorium has a rich history that begins with Reverend Sam Jones and riverboat captain Thomas Ryman. In May of 1885, Ryman attended Reverend Jones’ tent revival intending to raise a ruckus; however, when he heard the Reverend’s message, his heart was changed. Ryman repented his sins and vowed to build a great tabernacle for Reverend Jones so that he would never again have to preach under a tent in Nashville. Thomas Ryman built a beautiful tabernacle, and named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which was to project the Reverend’s voice clearly and powerfully to a great crowd. After Ryman died on December 23, 1904, thousands came to remember him on Christmas day at the Union Gospel Tabernacle he had built. While leading the memorial service, Jones proposed renaming the building the Ryman Auditorium. The idea was immediately embraced. By all accounts Ryman was an exceptional man of business acumen, faith, generosity, and kindness who was highly regarded in Nashville.
The Ryman Auditorium began hosting events for artists, speakers, magicians, political icons, and more. From Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft to entertainers such as Enrico Caruso, Harry Houdini, and more, the Ryman became, much like it is today, the cultural epicenter of Nashville.
In June of 1943, the Grand Ole Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium. For 31 years, the Ryman hosted the Grand Ole Opry along with other performers, featuring country and bluegrass icons Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Chet Atkins, Red Foley, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl, and many more.
In 1974, the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman to broadcast from the brand new Grand Ole Opry House. For twenty years, the Ryman closed their doors to events and were only open during the day. Gaylord Entertainment decided to renovate and restore the Ryman Auditorium, cleaning up the Mother Church while also preserving the precious history that dwelled within. The renovators orders were to “pull the gum off the bottoms of the pews but leave the nicks and scratches.” Since the renovation, the beautiful Ryman Auditorium has continued to host world-class performers ranging from Norah Jones to Vince Gill.
The Ryman has been named the 2003, 2004, 2010 and 2011 Pollstar Theatre of the Year. Other awards include Venue of the Year nods from both the Academy of Country Music and the International Entertainment Buyers Association. Some of the world’s most renowned artists sing the Ryman’s praises, including Coldplay, who commented that the Ryman Auditorium is “The greatest theatre in the world!” Experts say the Ryman’s acoustics are among the finest in the world, second only to the Mormon Tabernacle, surpassing even Carnegie Hall. Performers and fans alike adore the Ryman Auditorium because of its rich history, beautiful architecture, and extraordinary acoustics.