War Memorial Auditorium Turns 90 Today

war memorial auditorium 1The War Memorial Auditorium is celebrating its 90th birthday today. The building was dedicated as a monument to the thousands of Tennesseans who fought and died in World War I on Sept. 21, 1925.

To mark the anniversary, a historical marker is planned for the corner of 7th Avenue and Union Street. The marker highlights the building’s creation, the gilded bronze statue of Victory in the central courtyard, and the auditorium’s use by the Nashville Symphony from 1926-1980 and the world-famous Grand Ole Opry from 1939-1943.

In the 1950s, it served as a frequent stop on the African American Theater Circuit, and brought artists such as Ray Charles, The Five Satins, and Bo Diddley. Later, it hosted performances by Bette Davis, Liberace, Elton John, David Bowie performing as “Ziggy Stardust,” Bette Midler, Billy Joel, the first Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam, Willie Nelson, Barry Manilow, The Eagles, Kitty Wells, R.E.M., Lady Gaga, The Dead Weather, Mumford & Sons, and Robert Plant.

War Memorial Auditorium and its campus have served as the site of significant military and political events, such as speeches and/or events by Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, the State of Tennessee owns the building, and TPAC manages the auditorium.

Unveiling the design of the historical marker today were Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; Martha Ingram, charter and current board member for TPAC; Alan Valentine, CEO of the Nashville Symphony; Pete Fisher, VP and GM of the Grand Ole Opry; Patrick McIntyre, Exec. Dir. of the Tennessee Historical Commission; and Commissioner Bob Oglesby, whose department oversees the historic building.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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