Frist Art Museum (former Main Post Office) – Nashville TN

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Nashville’s former main post office was built in 1933-34 by the Treasury Department’s Office of Construction (later the Office of Procurement).  The enormous structure, filling a city block, was constructed in a record 18 months.

The design by architects Marr and Holman is a distinctive “stripped” classicism exterior design (often simply called Classical Moderne). The exterior is white Georgia marble with gray-pink Minnesota granite. The interior is done in the Art Deco Style with cast aluminum doors and grillwork, colored marble and stone on floors and walls. Interior marble included Fantasia Rose and Monte Neva from East Tennessee, Westfield marble from Pennsylvania, Royal Jersey green marble, and Verde Antique marble.

The old Main Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Two years later it was rendered obsolete by a new postal distribution center near Nashville airport.

The building was repurposed as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in the late 1990s and opened in 2001, then subsequently renamed The Frist Art Museum.  According to the museum website, “Tuck-Hinton Architects of Nashville guided the preservation of the post office building’s architectural details and spirit. The original pine floors were taken up, refinished, and reinstalled, and the huge high-ceilinged sorting rooms in the center of the original facility were naturally suited to their new role as spacious exhibition galleries. The former skylight in the center of the building, previously covered in the 1950s, had its function resurrected in the new design, accompanied by clerestory windows that now light the atrium and the grand staircases.”

On the back side of the building, they left the old United States Post Office marquees over the entrances (shown below).

Source notes

From Post Office to Art Center: A Nashville Landmark Repurposed.

Van West, C. (2001). Tennessee's New Deal Landscape: A Guidebook. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. p. 55-56.

"Frist Art Museum over the years," photo essay in The Tennessean, February 2, 2019.

Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish, Susan Allen on September 13, 2015.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

919 Broadway St.
Nashville, TN 37203

Coordinates: 36.1589057, -86.7820153

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