Weekly Obsession: The head that wears the crown

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 10:05pm
Jude Ferrara (SouthComm) 

The grand dame of Nashville hostelry received much deserved praise last week, as U.S. News & World Report ranked The Hermitage Hotel the country’s sixth-best. 

The magazine praised the food at the Capitol Grille and the finery decking out each of the century-old hotel’s 122 rooms, even more luxurious now after a $17 million renovation took the downtown jewel to even higher heights of hospitality of late. 

But somehow, in the 66-word rundown of the amenities, the magazine failed to mention The Hermitage’s men’s room — the one adjacent to the lobby. 

Not every hotel would brag on its restroom. But The Hermitage, friends, is not just any hotel. And this is not just some john. It’s more like King John, with its art-deco design and terrazzo floor. So famous is this men’s room that it’s been inducted into the America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame, which exists. 

It’s the head that wears the crown. 

From top to, well, bottom, The Hermitage Hotel is in a class by itself in Nashville. 

For one, it’s the only remaining Beaux-Arts commercial building in the state and is Tennessee’s only five-diamond rated hotel. 

Cleverly positioned as a neighbor to the halls of power at Legislative Plaza, the Capitol Grille and Oak Bar have helped make more deals than Monty Hall. During the famous fight to secure Tennessee’s vote for the 19th Amendment, the hotel was a buzz of pro- and anti-suffrage activity. Infamous Memphis political boss Edward Crump ran his machine from the hotel. And coincidentally (or not), the Tennessee Democratic Party had its headquarters there for years. 

It’s hosted six presidents, Al Capone and dozens of other famed and fabled figures. 

Yes, Opryland is bigger. The new Omni to anchor the convention center will be more expensive. But indoor rivers and 21st century design will never compete with the Belle Epoque grandeur of The Hermitage, whose halls teem with history and who, even at the ripe old age of 101, still reigns supreme.