What is a ghost sign? Think: old painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, usually spelling out the name of a company + a description of its goods or services. Given Nashville’s immense history, Music City ghost signs are everywhere. Though many of these stories are lost to history, here’s what we learned about the signs adorning three downtown structures.
Lawrence Record Shop
📍 409 Broadway
This two-story Lower Broadway building housed Lawrence Record Shop until 2016. The store, specializing in country and bluegrass vintage vinyl records, opened in 1954 and was operated by the Lawrence family of Hendersonville. The building was acquired by Johnny Cash Museum founder Bill Miller and transformed into Nudie’s Honky Tonk that stands today.
Marathon Motor Works
📍 1200 Clinton St.
The two-story building was constructed in 1881 for Nashville cotton mills before Marathon Motor Works made the move from Jackson, Tennessee, and purchased the property in 1910. The surrounding buildings were built between 1881 and 1912. Before the car manufacturer was known as Marathon, it was branded as Southern Engine and Boiler Works, a maker of industrial engines and boilers. The company was the first factory to totally manufacture automobiles in the southern US. Ultimately, mismanagement woes led the company to stop building cars in 1914, though it sold parts until 1918. Today, the buildings are known as Marathon Village, filled with offices, retail, event space, and a museum.
📍 400 Broadway
The business, which operates now at 2120 8th Ave. S., was founded by George Gruhn in January 1970 after Hank Williams Jr. himself convinced Gruhn to move to Nashville the year before and open a music store. The store, specializing in vintage instruments and restoration, originally opened as GTR Incorporated at 111 4th Ave. N. The name stood for business partners George Gruhn, Tut Taylor, and Randy Wood — and acted as an abbreviation for the word guitar. The original location no longer stands and the business rebranded to Gruhn Guitars after moving to its second location (410 Broadway). In 1993, the business landed at its final Broadway location, where you see its ghost sign today — 400 Broadway.