History of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium

Historic May Music Festival at the Ryman Auditorium | Image via @theryman

The month of May holds so much history for Nashville’s beloved Ryman Auditorium. From its inception in 1885 to hosting its first concert 7 years later, here are some fast facts about the venue’s history in Music City.

May 10, 1885

Three blocks from where the Ryman Auditorium stands today, Nashville riverboat captain Thomas Ryman set out on a mission after hearing a sermon by evangelist Sam Jones. Together, the two formed the concept of Nashville’s main religious gathering location, which would be known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

May 25, 1890

Following the completion of the Union Gospel Tabernacle’s foundation on May 9, 1890, a tent was set up + Sam Jones held the first daily meeting known as the “Tented Tabernacle.” The meetings ended on June 1 that year and the tent was removed to continue construction

May 4, 1892

The May Music Festival, which featured the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, was the first concert to be held in the newly completed building. The 4-day event was a benefit festival hosted by the Ladies of Hermitage Association.  

May 18, 1992

The Ryman Auditorium renamed after Captain Thomas Ryman following his death in 1904 — celebrated its 100-year anniversary. The celebratory event included a star-filled concert + one-act play, “The Ryman: The Tabernacle Becomes a Shrine.”