Architecture in Tennessee, A Guide for the Casual Traveler

historic marker for Elvis Aaron Presley in front of Graceland mansion
Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Mike Brown/Getty Images (cropped)

From Memphis to Nashville, Tennessee offers a variety of interesting and often surprising architecture. The great state of Tennessee even boasts a house by Frank Lloyd Wright and the controversial home of former Vice President Al Gore.

Architecture in Memphis

Graceland Mansion was home to rock star Elvis Presley from 1957 until his death on August 16, 1977. It's now a National Historic Landmark and the most popular tourist attraction in Memphis.

In fact, it seem that all Memphis tourism centers around Graceland, but it's also worth a trip into town to visit some of where the locals hang out. Not many skyscrapers on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River. The tallest building in Memphis is the 430 foot 100 North Main Building built way back in 1965. From this skyscraper, turn around to South Main Street, where you'll find turn-of-the-20th century architecture in the historic arts district. Headed back toward Graceland Mansion is the mid-19th century Elmwood Cemetery, which got its start during the Rural Cemetery Movement.

Nashville Sites

  • Capitol State Park Mall
    Site of many important buildings and memorials.
  • Tennessee State Capitol
    Designed by the noted architect William Strickland.
  • The Hermitage
    Home of President Andrew Jackson.
  • The Nashville Parthenon
    World's only full size replica of the ancient Parthenon of Greece.
  • "Batman" Building (AT&T), Earl Swensson Associates Architect (1994)
    The tallest building in Tennessee.
  • Belle Meade Plantation
    "Queen of Tennessee Plantations."
  • Historic Germantown
    Grand houses, worker's cottages, and shotgun homes.
  • Nashville's Best Historical Homes
  • Ryman Auditorium
    Home of the Grand Ole Opry

Chattanooga

Plantation Houses

Victorian Tennessee

  • Historic Rugby, a Utopian community founded by Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown's School Days

Plan Your Trip to Tennessee

Plenty of other excitement can be found all over the state. When visiting Discovery Park of America in Union City, remember that architects were involved with its making. And if the museum looks familiar it might be because Boston's famous Verner Johnson company had a hand in its design. The Great Smoky Mountains alone are enough of an excuse to get yourself to Tennessee, but then there's Dollywood in Pigeon Forge that will keep you there. Architectural gems can be found throughout the state, like the Langston Hughes Library on the Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, a small reference library designed in 1999 by Maya Lin. Plan your trip with Tennessee Tourism and the whole state can be your destination.

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