In 1927, when New York music producer Ralph Peer came to Bristol to record local talent, few could have suspected the impact his discoveries would have on the world of country music. Johnny Cash called the 1927 Bristol Sessions, where first recordings were made of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, “the most important event in the history of country music.”
In 1988, the US Congress officially designated Bristol as “the birthplace of country music.” The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, was established in order to preserve and promote the musical heritage of Bristol, a city that straddles the state line between Virginia and Tennessee. With focused collaboration between public and private entities on both the Virginia and Tennessee sides of town, the Birthplace of Country Music Cultural Heritage Center was born in 2014. The museum preserves the legacy of the 1927 Bristol Sessions–the “Big Bang” of modern country music–and serves over 30,000 visitors annually as an educational institution and cultural center with programming that includes concerts, workshops, and broadcasts. Formerly a retail space and car dealership, the building the museum occupies is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The project utilized NMTC provided by Virginia Community Development Fund in addition to state and federal historic tax credits, requiring the restoration to take place with the history and current use of the building. With strong support by the community and local government, the Birthplace of Country Music Cultural Heritage Center has expanded the live music scene and stimulated the development of new businesses, including restaurants, hotels, breweries, and retail. The project was funded through several sources including equity from the New Market Tax Credit Investor, historic tax credits, and Sponsor fundraising.