It’s become a tradition for outgoing mayors to preserve some of Nashville’s historic landmarks: Bill Purcell did it, Phil Bredesen did it, and now, Mayor Karl Dean. On Wednesday afternoon, Dean’s plan for 14 new landmarks goes to a public hearing.
A landmark designation would give the sites the city's most restrictive protection, requiring a permit for changes as small as adding a fence or repairing a window. After three hearings, it will be up to the Metro Council to approve the preservation of the sites.
The sites range from the popular Centennial Park to lesser-known spots — places people drive by all the time without realizing their history.
Locks One and Two on the Cumberland River
Locks One and Two were once part of a series of 21 locks built to help large steamboats navigate the shallow, rocky waters of the Cumberland River. Constructed in 1888 to boost Nashville commerce, the locks were demolished in the 1930s and 40s when dams like Old Hickory rendered them unnecessary.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the locks, has since leased them to the city, and they’re now used as park grounds. A run-down structure at Lock Two Park (above) is the old lockmaster’s house. Many locks in rural areas had these houses so that the lock operator could man the lock 24/7 for barge traffic.
Stone Hall and Eversong
Stone Hall was built in 1918 as Dempsey Cantrell and wife Nora Johnson Cartrell’s Donelson home. Architect George D. Waller designed the local limestone veneer home, which now serves as a historic model of Colonial Revival architecture.
Mrs. Cantrell, a published poet, would write her poetry in Eversong — a 20th-century log cabin that was brought to the property to serve as a guesthouse for the Cantrell residence. She also used the cabin to gather with friends and artists. Eversong is another example of Colonial Revivalism.
Now, Stone Hall is owned by Metro Parks and available for wedding and event rental. It’s also an entrance to the Greenway system.
Ben West Market House
What’s now a courthouse and Metro offices once served as Nashville’s City Market for over a century. The current building was built in 1937. Stalls of food lined its walls until the City Market was relocated in 1955, when the building became the Safety Municipal Building with a fire department and jail in the back. The building is named for Ben West, mayor of Nashville from 1951-1963.
Shelby Park and US Naval Reserve Building
Shelby Park began as an amusement park. But when that went bankrupt in 1903, the city purchased the land, reopening it in 1912 as a new park that would host the first city park baseball league.
After World War II, the site was used as a training ground for naval reservists — which explains the peculiar building on Davidson Street. Architect Edwin A. Keeble, who also planned Nashville’s first skyscraper, designed the US Naval Reserve Training Center in 1948. Its distinctive “Nautical Moderne” style is designed to mimic the prow of a ship. A pool was installed for river assault boat training until 1961.
Kellytown Archaeological Site
The site near Forest Hills was an ancient Native American town between 1000-1450 AD. Underneath the northbound turn lane of Hillsboro Pike are graves and structure footprints from Native Americans during the Mississippian period. Archaeologists have discovered palisades, burials, animal bone and stone tools that reveal how some of Nashville’s oldest residents used to live. Plant and seed remains also bring to light the ecology of Nashville during that era.
Bells Bend Park
Nashville’s fourth largest park, Bells Bend is 808 acres of fields and trails. Archaeologists have discovered remnants of occupants dating back 13,000 years to the Ice Age. The 2010 flood uncovered relics like ceramic, nails, prehistoric campfire charcoal, a spearhead, and pig burial sites. The park is also home to a 19th century farmhouse and similar outbuildings (above).
Buchanan Station Cemetery
Nestled behind a parking lot in an industrial park, the cemetery is the former site of Buchanan Station, one of Nashville’s first pioneer settlements. In 1792, the residents of Buchanan Station mounted an impressive defense against a major Native American attack. The heroic protection of the Station against hundreds of Native Americans deterred further attacks, and is credited with saving Nashville. The cemetery holds the graves of many Buchanan family members and residents of the Station, including Major John Buchanan and wife Sarah Buchanan who led the effort against the Native Americans.
Ben West Library Building
The library opened as the Nashville Public Library on January 16th, 1966. It is still located on 8th and Union, but the building has been vacant for almost a decade. It was re-named in 1977 after Nashville mayor Ben West, a strong proponent of desegregation. Its unique design offers high windows and cozy reading nooks. Metro has plans to restore the building and repurpose it, although the next tenant is still undecided.
This house on 511 Oman Street, now the administrative offices of Metro Center Board of Parks and Recreation, was constructed in the 1930s to serve as main office for the Oman Construction Company. The building is made entirely of stone – even the shingles – from the Crab Orchard Mountains, which lie atop the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee. The same stone was also used to build Scarritt College near Vanderbilt’s campus in the 1920s. John Oman, a stonemason and namesake of the street and building, came to Nashville from Scotland in 1877 to practice his craft.
Centennial Park hosted the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 with the construction of 20 new structures, including the Parthenon, the lake, and the rose arbor, all of which still stand today over a century later. In 1903 Centennial Park opened as Nashville’s first large public park, just across from the beginnings of Vanderbilt University. $6 million worth of renovations are currently happening throughout the park to revitalize the Parthenon and access a freshwater spring that runs underneath the park. Renovations will be completed in 2016.
Bank Street first appears in Nashville public records in 1856 as Clark Alley. Bank Street was located in what was known as the “Wall Street of the South” because of its booming financial district. During this time, the roads were paved with “setts,” which are often mistaken for cobblestones, but are actually more rectangular, and less spaces, allowing horses to gain more traction. These 150-year old stones still serve as the roadway in this now-alley, whereas most other segments of these in Nashville have been covered with asphalt.
Municipal Auditorium stands along 4th Street. Its construction was completed in 1962 after tearing down the 1904 Bijou Theater, which served as an entertainment center for African-Americans during segregation. The auditorium was the first public assembly in the mid-south to have air conditioning once it was installed in 1971. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the auditorium hosted many huge names, such as Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and Prince. It is now home to the Musician’s Hall of Fame, which opened on the first floor in 2012.
Until recently, re-zoning overlays would not cover the entire volume of the Warner Parks system. Close to 500 new acres of land have recently been added in various sections along Old Hickory Boulevard, Hwy 70S, Hwy 10, and Bellevue Road. The two main land parcels added include the 225-acre Burch reserve, across from the entrance to Percy Warner Park at the corner of Hwy 100 and Old Hickory Blvd. In addition, Metro is about to acquire a similarly sized plot of land that previously owned by H.G. Hill Realty Company. The plot contains old-growth forests with trees up to 300-years old. The total acreage of the Warner Park system will be around 3,000 acres, and will showcase new hiking trails, ponds, and observation decks.