Neighborhood Watch: Germantown, Nashville

Once an enclave of German immigrants, this quaint neighborhood embraces its heritage

WORDS Jess Swanson
April 2019
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Illustration by Antoine Corbineau

It’s not as jam-packed as Music City’s downtown or as hip as East Nashville, but Germantown, to the north, exudes a slower-paced charm, with brick sidewalks, historic homes and a thriving restaurant scene. “German-town does a better job preserving its history than other neighborhoods in Nashville,” says Phil Hyde, a managing partner of Germantown Inn. “It’s important not only to the neighborhood but to the city as a whole.”

Unrest in Europe lured German settlers to the area in the 1830s, where many took up shoemaking, meatpacking and beer brewing; by 1865, four breweries operated out of the 18-block neighborhood. The area took a downturn in the 20th century, as breweries closed with the advent of iced railcars and trucks. By 2000, there were few restaurants, but a post-recession push by local leaders sought to balance new hip loft construction with historic renovations. Today, Germantown boasts the highest concentration of sausages in town, but it’s the carefully restored aesthetic that keeps folks returning.


 

 

Bits & Pieces Antique Boutique

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Outside, a shipping container juts out of an insurance office, but inside, the shop abounds with gold-plated antiques, zany tchotchkes and vintage womenswear including flouncy dresses and eclectic boots.

Butchertown Hall

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

When it opened in 2015, Butchertown Hall became the area’s first beer hall since 1909, harkening back to German settler days via European brews and smoked sausage. Tex-Mex grub and mezcal add a surprising twist.

Geist

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Originally opened as a blacksmith by German immigrant John Geist in 1886, the brick structure was the city’s oldest family-owned business until shuttering in 2006. Today the former forge enjoys new life as a hip eatery serving elevated cocktails and sophisticated brunch and dinner plates amongst vintage glass chandeliers.

Germantown Inn

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Built in 1865 by a prominent shoemaker, the two-story brick home sat empty for years until it was reimagined in 2016 as a 10-suite luxury hotel with whimsical splashes of color. Exposed brick walls and vintage Nashville maps reflect the property’s historic charm.

Von Elrod's

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

A converted bus depot, this beer hall and garden serves housemade pretzels and bratwurst. Thirty-six tap beers and massive steins of brunch mimosas lubricate convos at communal tables.

Jess Swanson

Jess Swanson is the senior editor at American Way and Celebrated Living. She graduated from Columbia University School of Journalism. Her reporting has taken her from the python-infested Everglades swamps to a bubbling onsen in Tokyo to a lava-spouting volcano in Nicaragua.

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