BEHIND THE SCENES IN NASHVILLE | Darrin Henry
As fans of the TV show ‘Nashville’ we’ve just found out many of the scenes with Mayor Teddy Conrad are actually shot right here in the hallways and rooms of the real Tennessee state capitol building in Nashville, where we’re standing. Fantastic.
A NASHVILLE TOURIST ATTRACTION
The Americans love their state capitol buildings; and so do we. We’ve discovered these grand palatial centres of state government are free to visit and often include a guided tour.
Elected representatives from each district across the state all come together in the state capitol to vote on legislation and laws. The Nashville governor’s office is also in the building (why the TV series shoots here).
There was the obligatory metal detector and security check on the way in but now, with our freshly printed ID tags stuck on our shirts, we’re free to wander around on our own with an apparent absence of security personnel, which feels quite weird in security-obsessed America. Mind you, beady-eyed cctv cameras are recording every step of our visit.
This is clearly a working building. There are offices and office workers in business suits going about the daily grind while curious tourists in shorts and flip flops poke their heads through the doorways and pose for selfies on the stone staircases.
The Tennessee State Capitol building itself is perched on top of a hill, the highest point in the city of Nashville. I get the impression each state tries to outdo the other with a more impressive capitol building.
Inside is stunning. Polished floors, beautifully arched ceilings with stone inlaid eagles and monstrous golden chandeliers stretching overhead. I can’t help thinking how great it would be to do a photoshoot in here. There are busts of great Tennesseans as they’re called; made from stone, marble, bronze… they all seem to be different.
Portraits of distinguished Tennesseans keep an eye on us as we gawk and point the camera.
TENNESSEE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
During the guided tour we go onto the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives, the lower house of the legislative branch. This is a huge limestone constructed chamber with tall Greek styled pillars, ornate ceilings and thick, red drapes suspended from gilded curtain rails. The stars and stripes hangs on a pole at the far end alongside a desk from where the speaker of the house keeps order. The Tennessee state flag is on the other side.
Filling the room in perfect alignment are 50 wooden desks with seating for the 99 elected representatives. In actual fact it looks like an exam room waiting on students to arrive.
Two sets of voting buttons are fixed in each desk and large electronic displays on the side walls show immediately how each politician has voted. Today the chamber is empty, but on days when it is in session, citizens can keep tabs on their representatives from spacious public galleries above.
THE TENNESSEE STATE SENATE
All in all the Tennessee State Capitol building is rather impressive. The security guard on the door actually set the tone, very friendly and welcoming. Once inside our tour guide was much the same.
The freedom and encouragement for members of the public to access the building stems from the concept it is the people’s building. The comfortable gallery, voting display and open hallways help toward transparency and accountability. I’m already thinking how we could incorporate some of these ideas back home in St Helena. Regular tours of the historic Castle in Jamestown – why not?
If you’re in Nashville, I recommend a visit to the Tennessee State Capitol.
* for the purposes of this post I’ve gone with the American spelling of ‘capitol’