Ryman Auditorium Removes ‘1897 Confederate Gallery’ Sign
After more than 100 years in Nashville’s vaunted Ryman Auditorium, a sign commemorating the Confederate veterans who helped build the venue’s upper level has been removed. Sometimes concealed during events, the sign now resides in a museum exhibit about the Ryman.
According to the Nashville Scene, the sign -- which read “1897 Confederate Gallery” -- was placed in the venue to honor an 1897 reunion of men who fought for the Confederacy, held at the Ryman Auditorium. Because the original venue was not large enough to hold the full meeting of veterans, the organization raised money to build the Ryman’s upper gallery.
The sign’s permanent removal comes after years of “selective concealment” of the sign. The exhibit in which it now hangs explains the Ryman's history and the Confederate veterans group's involvement in the building's expansion.
"If you come to the Ryman [as] a big-name performer and you’re looking right out at the center of the balcony and you see that sign, you don’t know what it means. Or if you’re a fan that comes at night, not during the tour, you don’t know what it means either,” historian David Ewing tells the Scene. “This is the appropriate place to have the sign and tell the story of 125 years of the Ryman and particularly how the gallery got built.”
The original "1897 Confederate Gallery" sign went missing sometime between 1974, when the Grand Ole Opry left the venue, and 1994, when the venue was renovated. Ewing believes a looter may have taken the sign, which was recreated and re-hung post-renovation after inquiries from Tennessean newspaper readers, asking what had happened to it.
“As a collector of Nashville memorabilia, I have seen curtain pulleys from the Ryman for sale, old radiators for sale, windows for sale," Ewing notes, "and it wouldn’t surprise me if, during that time when there were scavenger hunters here, the original sign was taken by somebody, and it’s in somebody’s home right now on the wall.”