The Nashville Arcade opened to the public in 1903, and has undergone numerous changes since. In it’s current condition, it is capable of housing 50 tenant spaces in the main building, with five areas reserved for administrative uses. Several surrounding properties have been purchased over the years to expand the footprint. These areas currently house an additional retail areas, plus a sizable expansion to the original Walgreens drugstore which was part of the 1960 Nashville civil rights sit-in movement.
The city alley was known in the late 19th century as Overton alley and the property between 4th and 5th Avenues North was developed in 1902 to become Nashville’s first covered shopping center. The renowned Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Arcade in Milan, Italy was the inspiration that fueled a dream for the developers of the Nashville Arcade. The local firm of Thompson, Gibel, and Asmus was commissioned to design the two-story arcade. Entrances to the Arcade, at 4th and 5th Avenues North, are marked by identical Palladian facades. The interior space is two stories high, opened to the gabled glass roof. Shops and restaurants line both sides of the first level while shops, art galleries and offices occupy the second floor mezzanine. The Nashville Bridge Company installed the roof’s rolled steel bracing system; the contractor was the Edgefield and Nashville Manufacturing Company. The Arcade caused so much excitement that more than 40,000 people attended the grand opening in 1903. At the time, the population of Davidson County was approximately 125,000. It’s classic lines and Greek Revival architecture have spanned more than a century to remain a source of curiosity and interest to Nashville natives and visitors alike. What started our as a rose garden and a dream became one of the first covered shopping centers in North America.