Eminent Domain Spells End for Music Artifacts

Musician's Hall of FameAs we move more into the assessment phase of the great Nashville flood of 2010, the tragic stories begin to be fleshed out in full, none more biting than the ones that include the loss of life. As I read about loss of music artifacts and damage to historical landmarks, I can’t help but think about a tragedy that began months before the torrential rains.

What if right beside the pictures and stories of damage at the Grand Ole Opry, The Opryland Hotel, and The Country Music Hall of Fame, there was the story of how the Musicians Hall of Fame was so badly damaged, the building had to be bulldozed. Think of what a tragedy this would seem like. The irony is, Music City’s City Council voted through an eminent domain clause to bulldoze the Musician’s Hall of Fame 3 months before the Cumberland River started to rise.

And to make it worse, Joe Chambers, owner of The Hall, was only given 14 days to vacate. The guitars and other memorabilia were hastily thrown into storage at the Soundcheck Nashville facility, which was in turn inundated with water when the Cumberland crested its banks.


story from The Tennessean

When The Hall was forced to move so quickly and didn’t have time to find a proper new location, it threw the future of The Hall into question. Now with many of the precious items that brought visitors to The Hall damaged or complete losses, the future looks even more bleak.

It is so easy to second guess how things are handled before, during and after a tragedy like the Nashville flood. In the heat of the moment, everyone tries to do their best, but it is hard to plan for something that has never happened, and emotions and chaos run rampant. Eventually all the stories will come out, and blame AND credit will find their proper homes.

But THIS is why it is so important to preserve history at all costs. It must be an insistence of society. You never know when tragedy will strike: natural disasters, theft, neglect–and rob the public of precious ties to our past. If The Hall was open and the memorabilia on public view where it belonged, it could have been preserved. No, The Musician’s Hall of Fame building was not as historic as the Opry House, but the sentiment and history it housed was.

I have no doubt that the City of Nashville is doing its best right now to move forward and recover. But let the story of The Musician’s Hall of Fame be a lesson for the ages. And let’s hope that one day it rises from the rubble of an unnecessary and ill-advised eminent domain decision.

Hank III Driving Through the Flood.

© 2023 Saving Country Music