Nashville was founded on Christmas day in 1779 on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River.  Its riverfront birthplace remained the heart of the settlement and grew into what is now Downtown Nashville. Most of the nearby nineteenth century buildings are included in three National Register Historic Districts - Second Avenue, Broadway, and Printer's Alley – that are collectively referred to as the District.

Second Street was the commercial heart of the city in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Today, its warehouses have been transformed into restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Like Second Avenue, Broadway was a mercantile district. However, the Grand Ole Opry's move to the Ryman Auditorium just north of Broadway in 1941 brought the district a new identity associated with country music and music- and tourism-related businesses. Printer's Alley takes its name from its early connection with Nashville's printing and publishing industry, but the alley later became a center of the city's nightlife.

The DISTRICT, Inc., was formed in the 1980s as a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering economic revitalization and preservation of these historically and architecturally significant sections of downtown. To promote downtown living, The DISTRICT, Inc. and several businesses, non-profits, and government agencies partnered together in 2004 and 2005 to “Live it Up!” in Nashville. “Live it Up!” is a successful unique home tour designed to showcase downtown living opportunities, in both new buildings and in adaptive reuse projects in significant historic buildings. As a result, the area has an increasing residential population to complement its commercial and entertainment enterprises.

Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2006.

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