Perhaps the most striking feature of the Acuff-Rose building’s original façade was the near total concealment of its windows. At curbside, there would appear to be no clear means of entering the 23,500-square-foot building. Until recent renovations, decorative pre-cast concrete panels dominated the black granite walls of the façade, imparting an unmistakably mid-century modern aesthetic to the building.
Known as decorative screening or tracery, this once very popular architectural treatment referenced the Gothic architecture of medieval Europe in a style evolved from the elaborate rib-work of cathedral windows and interlacing grillwork of vaults and panels.
Moreover, a gold anodized metal grill extended across the height of the main entrance and obscured a spiral staircase rising alongside a two-story grid of plate glass windows. Acuff-Rose’s music publishing office may have projected a sense of solidity and impregnability, but it also looked rather more like a branch bank building than a mecca for songwriters. Yet it was in keeping with the design tenor of the times.
Interestingly, the pre-cast decorative panels used in the Acuff-Rose building exactly duplicate those used in the Cabana Motor Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Built in 1962, the ten-story hotel was owned in part by Doris Day, counted the Beatles as guests, and once employed Raquel Welch as a cocktail waitress. The Cabana’s glamorous, mirrored ceiling days had long since tarnished by the time the hotel was purchased by Dallas County in 1984 for its transformation into an altogether different set of accommodations: a 1,200 prisoner, minimum security jail. 1
Decorative screens could also be easily constructed of that most humble of building products ― the concrete block. Their widespread use in the 1950s and ‘60s gave suburban homes a measure of privacy and protection from the sun’s glare, while still permitting breezes and light to pass through. [See: http://www.a1block.com/screenwall.php]. Privacy may also have been a consideration for the offices of Acuff-Rose, but there was probably more style than substance at play in the architectural choices of the building’s public face.
The post Acuff-Rose years saw the publisher’s headquarters fall into nearly three decades of rather nondescript service. While its Melrose/Berry Hill location would not have been seen as its strongest asset, the building’s sealed-in appearance doubtless dampened its charms to an even greater extent. Within the last few years, however, a neighborhood renaissance has quickly transformed the well-worn commercial strip into an increasingly urban corridor lined with trendy new apartment complexes, eateries, and niche businesses. The time was now right for the Acuff-Rose building to undergo a substantive redevelopment.
In late 2012 the property was sold to Gabriel Smith, CEO of Legacy Instruction Media. As Smith told The Tennessean in 2013, “We are extensively renovating both the interior and exterior of the building in a way that modernizes it while still paying homage to its historical and architectural significance.” 2 The most dramatic visible change has been to the building’s façade, with large rectangular openings cut into the decorative screen and removal of the gold anodized grillwork at the main entrance to the facility. While these changes have compromised the building’s historical integrity in architectural terms, the alterations have surely made the building more liveable. At any rate, the building has not yet achieved the required fifty-year mark for determining its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.
A before and after comparison of 2510 Franklin Road, Nashville.
Legacy Instruction Media has recently completed interior renovations to the second floor and plans to have the old Acuff-Rose recording studio rehabilitated and back in action by mid-July. Moreover, in honor of the office building’s illustrious past Legacy Instruction Media is creating a memorial wall to Acuff-Rose in its second floor lobby. The display will feature a variety of memorabilia associated with the storied music publishing firm.
Lastly, in researching this entry I ran across a set of images from a 1968 edition of Billboard Magazine. Click the thumbnail to expand the image into a time-capsule look at the apparently windowless interior of the Acuff-Rose building in its heyday.
© 2014, David Sprouse. All rights reserved.