A Nashville Encounter

Skull’s Rainbow Room established in 1948. Printers Alley in Nashville, Tennessee.

By Janice Carter Levitch

It just made sense: pack an overnight bag and drive south to Nashville to see what all the hubbub was about. My parents visited Nashville when I was a wee tike, and they would return home with stories about Printer’s Alley and the mysteriousness it provoked. Honky-tonks and country music always seemed a little foreign yet familiar to me, and I created stories in my head about cowboy hats and steel guitars. I suppose that was a great influence on my curiosity about Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash (I daydreamed we were related and could sing as well as she did). It also could explain why wearing all black just makes sense to me since Johnny did.

Janice at the Keep Shop wearing a custom Stetson made exclusively for Noelle.

When I finally saw the city skyline, I wondered how many talented folks had found their fame in this place nicknamed “Music City” (imagine the stories if these city walls could talk). I stayed at Noelle Nashville, a newly renovated hotel built in 1930 located smack dab in the center of downtown Nashville and conveniently adjacent to Printer’s Alley. Upon arrival, it became clear to me that this ain’t no honky-tonk. The hotel valet greeted me with enough Southern charm to melt even the coldest butter on a homemade biscuit. Noelle is chicly adventurous and designed as an experimental hotel for those folks who want a true Nashville experience. From the moment you arrive, it becomes more than a place to lay your head.

Luxury begins in the lobby where you check in and are quickly drawn to the retail boutique, Keep Shop, where you can find a Stetson hat made exclusively for Noelle. The artwork is also noteworthy, and each floor features a different artist like Caroline Allison, who has been taking photographs in Nashville for the past 20 years as a historical reflection of life in this special town.

The historic Trade Room lounge.

Nick Dryden is the head of the architecture and interior design firm DAAD that led the recent renovation. He gave me the most gracious tour of Noelle along with architect Jamie Sinz. These two know every nook and cranny of the place. The crowning achievement, in my opinion, is the rooftop garden, called Rare Bird.

“We strive to include partnerships with artists and have over 60 local artists as part of this venture,” Nick said. “The coffee shop is unique. There are no coffee makers in the rooms, but you can get a special coffee corral brought to your room in the morning if you request it (at no charge). We try to speak to the continuum of past, present, future. We are looking at the historical adaptation of this building, but we want it to be very much about today.”

Noelle is all about today, a modern version of what was and still is the place to be in downtown Nashville. Inside the hotel you’ll find Makeready Libations & Liberation, an American tavern-style restaurant that serves up an extensive in-house charcuterie plate and mouth-watering entrees. Nashville still has that air of mystery about it, especially down Printer’s Alley at a place called Skull’s, where you can experience excellent jazz and get a sense of music history.

It’s always nice to get away for a day or two and sip some champagne on a rooftop while surrounded by the buzz of a magnetic city. VT