At first, the Ryman was for fancy types – the Metropolitan Opera, John Philip Sousa, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and President Theodore Roosevelt appeared on stage in the decades after steamboat captain Thomas G. Ryman built it for $100,000 in 1892. But in 1943, the Grand Ole Opry radio show needed a new stage to accommodate roaring and occasionally misbehaving country-western crowds, so it moved to the Ryman. It's gone on to welcome just about every country star you can think of over the years, from Hank Williams and Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift. Chicago promoter Andy Cirzan calls it "the legendary mother church."
Fun Fact: The Ryman's first-ever sellout was a lecture by Hellen Keller in 1913.