Brief Pictorial History Of Nashville’s Maxwell House Hotel

The Maxwell House Hotel, which once stood at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue, North, and Church Street in downtown Nashville, was for years the center of Nashville’s social and political life. Colonel John Overton Jr. built the hotel named for his wife, Harriet Maxwell Overton. Construction of the Maxwell House, designed by Isaiah Rogers, began in 1859 using slave labor. During the Civil War, the partially finished brick building served as both barracks and prison hospital for the occupying Union army.

After the war Overton resumed construction of what became Nashville’s largest hotel, which local citizens initially called “Overton’s Folly.” Opening in the fall of 1869, the five-story, 240-room hotel cost five hundred thousand dollars. The Maxwell House advertised steam heat, gas-lighting, and a bath on every floor. Rooms were four dollars a day, meals included. The building fronted on Fourth Avenue and the infamous Men’s Quarter; an entrance for women opened onto Church Street. Eight Corinthian columns flanked the main entrance; the elegant main lobby featured mahogany cabinetry, brass fixtures, gilded mirrors, and chandeliers. There were ladies’ and men’s parlors, billiard rooms, barrooms, shaving “saloons,” and a grand staircase to the large ball or dining room.

Go to the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture to read more about the history of the Maxwell House Hotel

Maxwell House Hotel, at the end of the Civil War, when it was still called the Zollicoffer Barracks

View from the State Capitol looking south shows the Masonic Building, First Presbyterian Church, Maxwell House Hotel, and McKendree Methodist Church. Charlotte Ave. is in foreground and High St. (now 6th) is at right

Silver by Calhoun jewelers displayed in the Maxwell House Hotel during the Tennessee Centennial celebration. Calhoun Jeweler’s store was located on the hotel’s ground floor.

Maxwell House 1900

Maxwell House Hotel, 1910

Banquet commemorating 100th anniversary Free & Associated Masons,Cumberland Lodge No. 8 at Maxwell House Hotel, June 24, 1912.

Interior view of the Maxwell House Hotel balcony and mezzanine

Maxwell House Hotel 1925

Undated photo of The Maxwell House Hotel Ballroom

Firemen fighting a fire at the Maxwell House Hotel possibly the fire that destroyed it on December 25 1961.

Photos Courtesy Tennessee State Library and Archives


3 thoughts on “Brief Pictorial History Of Nashville’s Maxwell House Hotel

  1. Memories To DVD

    I can still remember the night of the` terrible fire that brought this great hotel down in 1961. I was 5 years old and I could see the red glow from our house which was five miles away. A client of ours brought in some moving images of this fire and we posted it on our blog. You can see it now by going to and clicking the video tag. Great article!

  2. Betsy Thorpe

    I viewed your video clip, it is very intereteing and offers a nostalgic look at downtown Nashville, circa 1961.Thank you for sharing this. I would also like to thank the Kurzynske family for allowing the public access to this rare footage.Hmmmmm…makes me wonder what other vintage film footage is out there waiting to be viewed.

  3. Randy Zimmerlee

    I can remember the night of the fire vividly, I was only 11. My parents and sister were coming back from my uncles in Hendersonville when we saw the Nashville skyline glowing a bright red. We were heading home off Thompson Lane and dad decided to drive on in to downtown since it was my sisters birthday on the 26th. When we got downtown, we found a place to park and walked up close to the L&C to watch the fire as this was about as close as they would let us get. It was one of the worse fires that I have ever seen. By early morning of the 26th, the 4th ave. wall of the hotel collapsed on top of several fire apparatus sitting in the road there. If I am not mistaken, it was the fire engines in the picture on the main page. I was not sure if any fire fighters were injured or not. I never heard. I am now almost 62 and I still remember it as if it were yesterday. I just thought I would pass this along.


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