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The Cumberland River: Nashville’s Most Important Asset (with David Ewing).

February 21, 2022


“The river belongs to all of us. We are a river city. It is part of our identity even if we do not see it much”. – David Ewing

The Cumberland River is a powerful and important waterway that connects Nashville with the region, supplies water to the area, and continues to be a mode of transportation. In this River Talk, we hear from local historian David Ewing about the history of the river and how it was literally responsible for the founding and growth of Nashville. Hear stories about how it froze, flooded, and how the Cumberland River put Nashville on the map. While sometimes ignored the Cumberland has been a driving force for the growth and development in Nashville.

This podcast is pre-recorded audio from a lecture from David Ewing in September 2021. You will hear him occasionally mention photos or images. 

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About David Ewing:

David Ewing is a ninth generation Nashvillian, historian and tour guide. He runs an upscale private history tour company called Nashville History On Tour. The Nashville Scene in 2017 named him “Best Historian”.  In 2018 the Nashville Scene named his Instagram page “The Nashville I Wish I Knew” the “Best Nashville Instagram Page” which has over 20,000 followers. In 2021 Mayor John Cooper said David Ewing is one of Nashville’s greatest historians.

David is a graduate of Connecticut College and Vanderbilt School of Law. David previously was SVP of Government and Community Relations for the Nashville Chamber and held that same role at Gaylord Entertainment.  David has served on boards of the Metro Historical Commission, Metro Historic Zoning Commission, Cheekwood, The Nashville Symphony, The Nashville Opera, The Hermitage and Travelers Rest.  He is a graduate of Leadership Nashville, Leadership Middle Tennessee, Young Leaders Council and Leadership Donelson Hermitage.

In this podcast:

  • The role of the Cumberland River in the Civil War
  • Notorious polluters of the river along with early champions of clean water like Hilary Howse and Dr. John Lentz.
  • A look at The Bridge Building as the original “tall and skinny”,  the role of the Nashville Bridge Company in the city, and the history of the Shelby Street Bridge.
  • How flooding shaped the growth of Nashville.
  • The modern industrialization of the River, including the downtown thermal plant


Photo:  “An aerial view of the Cumberland River seven miles east of Nashville, Tennessee.,” 1940 September 21, RG 82: Tennessee Department of Conservation Photograph Collection, 1937-1976, Box 73, File 57, 24516, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Tennessee Virtual Archive,, accessed 2022-02-03.