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25 Things You Should Know About Nashville

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It may be known as the Music City, but Nashville can do a lot more than just carry a tune. It’s a leading healthcare provider, a foodie destination, and a must-see for history buffs. It’s also the only place in the world where you’ll find a full-size replica of The Parthenon—and in a city park, no less. Here are a few things you might not know about the Tennessee capital.

1. It’s named after Francis Nash, who was one of the few Patriot generals killed during the American Revolution. Among the early pioneers who settled Fort Nashborough, as it was first known, was a young Rachel Donelson, the future wife of President Andrew Jackson.

2. General William Driver retired to Nashville in 1837 and every morning would run up an enormous American flag he called “Old Glory” outside his home. After rumblings about secession began to spread, he hid the flag by sewing it into a coverlet. When Nashville fell to Union troops in 1862, Driver marched out and cut open his coverlet in front of General William “Bull” Nelson. The regiment ran up Driver’s flag at the capitol building and proclaimed their new motto “Old Glory.”

3. Historians credit The Battle of Nashville, fought in December 1864, as one of the greatest tactical victories for the Union Army during the Civil War. Fifty thousand Union defenders smashed one of the Confederacy’s largest armies at the time, the Army of Tennessee, and sent them retreating south to Mississippi.

4. Downtown Presbyterian Church, built in 1851, is one of the few examples of Egyptian Revival architecture in America.

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5. Nashville’s musical reputation began with the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University, an all-black a capella group that toured the nation during the 1870s to raise money for the university. Their 1909 recording of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” was among the first inducteesto the National Recording Registry, in 2002.

6. In 1892, salesman Joel Owsley Cheek convinced the food buyer for Nashville’s prestigious Maxwell House hotel to offer patrons his unique coffee blend, which he’d perfected by roasting over his mother’s stove. The coffee was such a hit that the hotel’s manager let Cheek sell it under the Maxwell House name. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt paid a visit and, after drinking a cup, supposedly proclaimed it “Good to the last drop.”

7. In 1912, the Standard Candy Company came out with the Goo Goo Cluster, a candy bar filled with peanuts, marshmallow nougat and caramel. It was the first candy bar to combine more than two ingredients, and is still a favorite in Nashville and throughout the South.

8. The Grand Ole Opry, the country’s longest-running radio show, began in 1925 as the WSM Barn Dance. Appearing on the WSM radio station (the call letters stood for sponsor National Life & Accident Company’s slogan, “We Shield Millions!”), the featured performer was a fiddle player named Uncle Jimmy Thompson. Two years later, the show’s announcer, George Hay, came on the air following a classical music program and famously said, “For the last hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from grand opera and the classics. We now present our own Grand Ole Opry.”

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9. During Prohibition, print shops along Printers Alleyran a collection of bars that became the city’s not-so-secret secret bar scene. After Prohibition was repealed, many of the bars stayed open, and several are still in business today.

10. Its well-known nickname was first uttered in 1950, when WSM announcer David Cobb proclaimed Nashville “Music City, USA.”

11. Nashville’s WSM radio station received the first FM radio license in 1941. Most listeners weren’t aware of the change beforehand, but they immediately took note of the clearer signal.

12. RCA Studio B, located on Nashville’s Music Row, is lit with red, blue, and green lights year round to commemorate an Elvis Presley Christmas album. While recording the album in July, The King had his crew put up the lights, along with a Christmas tree, to help get him in the holiday spirit. He also turned up the air conditioning full blast.

13. From February through May 1960, African-American college students staged a series of sit-ins at stores and restaurants throughout downtown. While these weren’t the first such displays of nonviolent protest, they were some of the most successful, leading to Nashville becoming the first Southern city to desegregate public establishments.

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14. Oprah Winfrey spent part of her childhood in Nashville, where her father Vernon lived. At age 19, she took a job with WTFV-TV and became the city’s first female African-American news anchor.

15. Nashville’s capitol building, built in 1859, is one of America’s oldest capitol buildings still in operation. Its architect, William Strickland, modeled it after the monument of Lysicrates in Greece, and he considered it the greatest achievement of his career. When he died suddenly during construction in 1854, he was entombed in the building’s north façade.

16. In 1927, after reading a magazine article about guide dogs in Switzerland, a blind Vanderbilt student named Morris Frank traveled to Europe to train with a German Shepherd named Buddy. Morris returned less than a year later and founded the first seeing-eye dog training school in the U.S.

17. Nashville has the world’s only full-scale replica of The Parthenon. It’s located in Centennial Park and houses the city’s art museum. There’s also a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena inside.

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18. In the late ‘50s, a group of country music producers, including the legendary Chet Atkins, began eliminating fiddles, steel guitars and other honky-tonk elements from recordings in order to update country music for modern audiences. Their efforts paved the way for contemporary country ballads, and became known as the “Nashville sound.”

19. Unsurprisingly, Nashville has the highest concentration of music industry employees of any city in the world, with nearly 60,000 total.

20. The music industry’s got nothing on the healthcare industry, though. Vanderbilt University, as well as Hospital Corporation of America and more than 300 other healthcare establishments account for more than 200,000 local jobs.

21. Nashville has the largest Kurdish community in North America, with more than 13,000 Kurds living and working in the city. Drawn by the low cost of living and available jobs, many arrived in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s after fleeing Saddam Hussein’s cultural genocide in Iraq.

22. There are more than 150 live music venues in Nashville. Those that feature live music four or more nights a week get to display a special sign shaped like a guitar pick.

23. Home to such down-home dishes as hot chicken, hot fish, and meat and three, Nashville is also a destination for refined palates. Travel + Leisure named it number 13 in its list of snobbiest American cities.

24. The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s estate, features a driveway shaped like a guitar. The design was meant to help carriages maneuver easily through the grounds, though Nashville residents like to think it was a good omen for the city’s future.

25. The Blue Room, a live venue located inside rocker Jack White’s Third Man Records, is the only venue in the world that records music directly to vinyl record.

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National Geographic Ranks The 25 Happiest Cities in the Country
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Feeling unhappy? Maybe it's time to move. National Geographic recently released rankings of the 25 happiest cities in the U.S. The results: Eight of the 25 locations are in the Golden State, but the honor of No. 1 happiest city goes to Boulder, Colorado.

The rankings are based on 250,000 interviews conducted in 190 metropolitan areas between 2014 and 2015. The survey—developed by Dan Buettner, author of the new book The Blue Zones of Happiness, and Dan Witters, a senior scientist at Gallup—looked for data points that are correlated with life satisfaction and happiness, like whether or not you exercise, if you feel safe in your community, whether you feel like you live within your means, and whether you feel like you are reaching your goals.

A map of the U.S. showing which cities made the top 25 happiest cities index.
Courtesy National Geographic

Of course, all that isn’t necessarily the result of your geographical location. But you don’t see cities like Los Angeles or New York—where wealth is also clustered—on the list, so presumably San Franciscans are doing something a little differently.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the 25 happiest places in the U.S., according to the results.

1. Boulder, Colorado
2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
3. Charlottesville, Virginia
4. Fort Collins, Colorado
5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
7. Provo-Orem, Utah
8. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut
9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
10. Anchorage, Alaska
11. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
12. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California
13. Salinas, California
14. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
15. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
16. Ann Arbor, Michigan
17. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
18. Colorado Springs, Colorado
19. Manchester-Nashua, New Hampshire
20. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
21. Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia
22. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota/Wisconsin
23. San Diego-Carlsbad, California
24. Portland-South Portland, Maine
25. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

You can grab a copy of November’s National Geographic to read more about the world’s happiest places.

The cover of Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones of Happiness and the cover of November 2017’s National Geographic.
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These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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