Belmont University is Slowly Changing this Historic Neighborhood
The word Belmont can mean many things in Nashville. It’s the name of a prominent boulevard that stretches for three miles through one of Nashville’s oldest and most beloved neighborhoods—also called Belmont. It’s also the name of one of Nashville’s most popular universities; Belmont University, founded in 1890, is located on Belmont Boulevard in the Belmont neighborhood. If this is starting to feel a bit like the movie “Inception,” that’s because it is. Over the last few years, the expansion of Belmont University has begun to absorb the Belmont community, changing the face of the neighborhood.
A Historic Neighborhood
Originally a plot of land owned by millionaire Adelicia Acklen, Belmont University has a fabled history that stretches back to the antebellum south. The rollings hills upon which the university is located were once home to Acklen’s plantation, as evidenced by the historic mansion at the center of campus. In fact, the whole area was her property before it was divided up and eventually became the Belmont neighborhood. Many of the homes along the boulevard date back to the 1920s when the street was a main thoroughfare for streetcars. Now Belmont is known as a beautiful, old neighborhood entwined with a famous college that stands atop a hill at the end of Music Row.
A Growing University
Belmont University, with its ever-expanding student body, has stretched its campus immensely over the last few years, routinely buying up homes to the east near the 12 South neighborhood and demolishing them to make way for residential halls and academic buildings. Belmont was also quick to purchase the building that was formerly home to Nashville-favorite running store and athletic institution Athlete’s House before it closed its doors in 2015 after 42 years of business. The 5,000-square-foot building on Belmont Boulevard is now home to the university bookstore.
The End of an Era
The university’s growth had been largely uncontroversial until August of last year when Belmont announced the purchase of beloved Thai restaurant International Market, along with three adjacent lots, for $6.5 million. The Nashville Post reports that the university has now secured the demolition permits required to build a performing arts center that will stretch from Bernard Avenue on the north to Compton Avenue on the south. The construction will require the demolition of seven buildings, including International Market. This development will fundamentally change the face of Belmont Boulevard, and many residents feel conflicted in light of the recent passing of Patti Myint, International Market’s owner and the matriarch of one of Nashville’s most beloved culinary families.
A Culinary Legacy
Myint and her husband opened International Market in 1975, and they were truly at the vanguard of Nashville’s culinary evolution. Their son, Arnold Myint, is a celebrity chef and trailblazer in his own right appearing on Bravo, The Cooking Channel, and Food Network. The younger Myint’s alter ego, Suzy Wong, has become a staple of Nashville’s drag community, even opening a popular brunch spot called Suzy Wong’s House of Yum in Nashville’s LGBTQ-friently district on Church Street near The Gulch and Midtown neighborhoods.
While Nashvillians grieve the loss of an icon in Patti Myint, many reflect on the larger implications of International Market’s demise. Many residents of the area are, in fact, alumni of Belmont University and are happy to see the institution grow. Nevertheless, the stunning pace of development in the city has many locals asking “is this too much too fast?” Transformations like the one taking place on Belmont Boulevard demonstrate how challenging these questions can be.