In the heart of Music City’s growing downtown area, the newly opened 21c Nashville offers guests a uniquely enriching experience—the opportunity to stay the night in a museum. The new property marks the seventh opening for the boutique hospitality brand 21c, which was founded in 2006 by contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. With each of their stylish hotels, all of which feature contemporary art works woven throughout, the husband-and-wife duo hopes to revitalize American downtowns through public art engagement.
21c Nashville is housed in the historic Gray & Dudley Hardware Building, a Chicago-style structure developed in 1900 just a few blocks from the burgeoning city’s 5th Avenue arts walk, Ryman auditorium, and lively Printer’s Alley. Deborah Berke, who was honored as one of Architectural Digest’s most influential architects in 2017, was tasked with reimagining the building, transforming the industrial space into a bright, multi-use venue, while respecting such historic details as timber columns and large warehouse windows.
Inside the hotel, the 10,500-square-foot museum is open free of charge to the public daily (with docent-led tours twice a week). The opening exhibit, Truth or Dare: A Reality Show, features paintings, sculptures, photography, video, and interactive experiences by more than 20 artists that aim to examine the complexity of truth through the lens of current events. Art is not limited to the property’s museum space, however. Works commissioned specifically for the hotel pop up across the property in unexpected spaces like the elevators and restrooms, as well as in the courtyards, rooftop, and surrounding alleys and streetscapes. The decor in each of the 124 rooms and seven rooftop terrace suites—the most impressive of which is the spacious 21c Suite, which boasts views of the Cumberland River and surrounding historic district—complements the artsy atmosphere, with wood floors, high ceilings, modern furnishings, and dramatic drapery.
At the hotel’s Gray & Dudley restaurant, executive chef Levon Wallace creates his own masterpieces. A 21c veteran who formerly helmed the dining scene at the brand’s flagship hotel in Louisville, Ky., Wallace offers hints of French, Italian, and Mediterranean influences across his menu. His menu also takes cues from 21c’s desire to celebrate local culture, with regionally-inspired plates like smoked catfish dip with housemade hot sauce and Jerusalem artichokes dripped with beef fat and frisée—both works of art in their own rights.