The most historically significant restaurant in the city of Nashville opened its doors earlier this week, as restaurateur Tom Morales and his TomKats Hospitality group debuted Woolworth on 5th.
Housed in the former F. W. Woolworth department store at 221 5th Ave. N. that was most recently home to a Dollar General, the five-and-dime was the site of some of the seminal lunch counter sit-ins during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, led by civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis. Morales and his partners embarked on the project with the goal of honoring the history of the space, while also giving it a new story as a welcome table for all.
First opened in 1930, the Woolworth department store occupied the basement, street, and mezzanine levels. Through an impressive restoration effort led by local architecture firm Tuck-Hinton, much of the original Woolworth space has been preserved, with other elements being carefully recreated to pay homage to the original space.
The original terrazzo floors have been restored on all three levels, revealing details such as patched holes showing the location of the formerly-segregated lunch counter on the mezzanine level. Original cast iron railings show off the geometric designs that were a hallmark of the Art Deco period of the 20th century. Staircases leading up and down were recreated to match the originals, with stained maple paneling and new antiqued mirror glass panels.
In the massive main dining room, new dining booths line one wall, with a large bar — inspired by the Woolworth lunch counter — running the length of the room on the opposite side. Details from both the Art Deco era, as well as the mid-1960s when the Woolworth diner was at the height of its popularity, can be seen throughout.
The mezzanine level features a small lounge and separate bar, as well as additional seating running the length of the dining room.
The New Era Ballroom on the basement level, which was not ready for photographing at the time of publishing, will open to the public in March. It will feature a variety of music and performances, with genres ranging from funk to swing, gospel, and jazz. Band the Downtown Dippers will reside as the house band, with Wednesday nights featuring ‘The Big Idea,’ a community night of poetry and cultural performances led by Nashville actor, playwright, and director Barry Scott.
Take a detailed tour of the space below.