21c Museum Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, provides a unique exhibit of 21st century art, luxurious accommodations, a fine dining restaurant and a location near many attractions. The staff is taking the precautions and safety concerns of the coronavirus very seriously to ensure a healthy stay for their guests.
Restored historic building
21c Museum Hotel at 221 Second Avenue North is housed in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Construction for Gray and Dudley Company’s vast hardware store began in 1899 and opened for business in October of 1900. The first floor served as a retail showroom while the upper floors were the central hub for the wholesale operation of the business. Gray and Dudley sold building supplies, tools, guns, ammunition, outdoor wear, athletic wear, pocket knives, razors, lamps, clocks, glassware, children’s toys and household goods of all kinds.
It is now a part of the Second Avenue Historic Preservation District. The exterior still reflects a Chicago style facade with its long and arched windows.
The lobby reflects commitment to health and safety
The lobby serves as the beginning to the art gallery, and it is evident that careful measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of employees and guests. A plexiglass shield, masks on staff members, a hand sanitizing station and touchless check-in and check-out contribute to the feeling of security. Masks are provided for guests who arrive without one.
Guest rooms with luxurious bedding
In the 124 guest rooms, the sheet sets with a cotton/polyester blend are made by Standard Textiles using a technology that actually makes them softer as they are washed. They are so popular with guests that the hotel’s website now has a link where guests can order them for their beds at home. The same goes for the towels, the microfiber pillows and the luxurious robes hanging in the rooms. If you want to completely duplicate the sleep experience from 21c, you can even order a mattress like the one you enjoyed while you were there.
Rooms have an alarm clock/docking station, a flatscreen television, Nespresso coffee machine, individual thermostats and plenty of seating.
Guest bathrooms with tile and robes
Bathrooms are furnished with Malin and Goetz amenities, tile walls and floors, lighted mirrors, hairdryers, and plenty of hot water in the shower.
Art displays that stir the imagination
The first two floors of the hotel serve as a museum and gallery for incredible pieces of 21st century art. Alice Gray Stites is the Chief Curator who oversees the installations and placements of the artworks. Some of the pieces come from the private collection of owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, while others are on loan. The exhibits change every six to eight months.
The artworks are available for public enjoyment with no fee, and the doors are open 24 hours a day. Pre-COVID there were docent-led tours at 5:00 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday. Check with hotel staff to find out when they expect these tours to resume.
Penguins represent and reign proudly
There are now eleven 21c Museum Hotels scattered throughout the country. Each has its own color of penguin mascot. The first hotel was in Louisville, where their penguins are red. In Nashville, the penguins are teal.
The penguins were created by Cracking Art Group. On their website, the materials used to make the penguins are described like this: “Cracking refers to the chemical reaction that occurs when converting raw crude oil into plastic - or the moment when natural becomes artificial.”
Parking and other guest amenities
As with almost all hotels found in the downtown areas of large cities, parking for guests is an issue that has to be solved. In Nashville, the hotel has an agreement with the parking lot across the street, and guests can enjoy a greatly-reduced rate for daily parking. The lot is within sight of the front desk and has the Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans professional football team, as a visual backdrop. Currently, the daily rate for guests is 20 USD.
Ice machines are located on each floor, but under current conditions, guests must ask the front desk for ice, and a staff member will bring a bag quickly.
The hotel is handicap accessible at the entrance and has an elevator that must be accessed with the magnetic room card, which is an added safety feature since the art gallery is open at all times. Several rooms are specially equipped to be handicap accessible.
There is a fitness center on the third floor with every other machine currently operational to allow for social distancing. The staff cleans regularly, plus there are sanitizing/disinfecting stations set up for guests to use at any time.
Creative, chef-driven restaurant on site
Gray & Dudley is the restaurant onsite at 21c Nashville, and Matt Bell has been the Executive Chef since January 27, 2020. In addition to his expertise in the kitchen, he is also passionate about social causes, particularly those that impact children who are food insecure.
The restaurant can be accessed via Bankers Alley beside the restaurant or through the lobby area. There is a large outdoor dining section in the alley.
Shishito Peppers and Roast Chicken are extremely popular on the dinner menu, and the Not Hot Chicken Biscuit and the Bakers Breakfast are favorites for brunch.
View from the windows and the rooftop
City views are always intriguing, especially when there are iconic buildings in a skyline. Out the window and from the rooftop of 21c, Nashville guests can get a great view of the AT&T Building, nicknamed “Batman,” as well as the Cumberland River.
Printers Alley and Broadway are a short walk from the hotel. Both are jammed with bars, pubs and live music venues. With Nashville’s reputation for music and musicians of all kinds, it is not surprising that live music can be heard almost every evening of the year. A Nashville Pedal Tavern might be seen rolling by, which is a large bar/bicycle contraption where a dozen or more people can pedal with their feet while enjoying a drink. These are extremely popular for bachelorette parties.
Comfort with downtown revitalization at its core
21c Museum Hotels are often described as being a combination boutique hotel and contemporary art museum with a chef-driven restaurant. Their stated purpose is “to engage the American public with contemporary art and support the revitalization of American downtowns.” The Nashville location is certainly doing just that while keeping the ultimate comfort of their guests at the forefront.