This installment of Curious Nashville is a seemingly simple one, but with its own set of twists and turns. Our question asker Melinda Welton, wanted to know:
"Where is construction waste from new construction in Nashville going?”
Nashville is in the midst of a building boom. Entire blocks-worth of houses are being leveled and rebuilt. With this in mind, it seemed like the best way to really answer Melinda’s question was to start with one house and follow it — from the moment the demolition permit was issued, to when it reached the landfill.
I went to the city’s database for permits and cross-checked it with the assessor's database for deeds. Since 2014, the city has issued demo permits for 3,300 properties. But waste and debris can come from construction permits too, and in the last three years, the city has issued 39,000 of those.
1. The House
Finally, I found a house that seemed promising: 1807 Sherwood Lane, a single family house with white vinyl siding, jet black shutters and a long driveway, tucked away on a tiny street in South Inglewood. It was built in 1953, and it was home to the Bryant family for more than 50 years. They sold the house in December for $230,000.
I asked the contractor if I could go inside. He said, "No problem."
Inside, it looked like a time warp from the '70s. Brown shag carpet, linoleum floors, an Elvis license plate on dark wood paneling. Upstairs, old t-shirts spilled out of dresser drawers. The counters were covered with rusty tools and empty soda cans.
When I came back a day later, I met Terry Mason, the guy in charge of tearing it down. Terry told me he’d call me when he was getting ready to wreck the house at 1807 Sherwood. It wouldn’t take long, he said, maybe 45 minutes to an hour.
2. Bye Bye, House
But, then, Terry never called. And the next time I went back, the house was rubble. I couldn't believe I missed it.
I decided to stick around and watch as they loaded it up into a truck. I asked the driver, Jeff Boone, where he was taking his load. He leaned out of his truck, the engine still running. “To the dump at Ashland City Highway,” he replied.
So, with that bit of vague information, I was off.
3. The Landfill
Eventually, I pulled up to the Waste Management Landfill. At the base of a massive hill, dump trucks just like the one I’d just seen carry 1807 Sherwood were unloading materials. Bulldozers were sorting them.
It was a mountain of waste, just 10 miles from downtown Nashville. But beyond waste, there are also 50 acres of landfill surrounded by 36 acres of wildlife habitat, home to deer, ducks and great blue herons. Plus, there’s an adorable colony of feral cats that the employees tend to.
Jessica Preston, the landfill’s environmental manager, took me up to the top, where trucks dump their loads. She told me that, most days, around 500 trucks make this trip up and down the landfill. Every day, they sort what they can and recycle about 100 tons of it.
It's the largest landfill of its kind in the metro area, but it's filling up fast. After 26 years in operation, Jessica estimates it has about eight to 10 years left.
On my drive home, I was feeling sad to bear witness to the final act of 1807 Sherwood Lane. I may have answered Melinda’s question, but I had just watched a family home gut buried. So I wanted to go pay my respects and find out the rest of the story — why 1807 Sherwood Lane ended up in a landfill.
4. The Childhood Home
I found an address for Glenda Smith, the daughter of the couple that first purchased 1807 Sherwood Lane in 1964. According to the house's deed, she helped her mother sell it after her father's death.
I knocked on the door, unsure if she would be home or even if it was the right house. But she answered, and surprisingly, she let me in.
Glenda told me she lived in 1807 Sherwood until the early aughts. She described it as the neighborhood house, the hang spot for "a big happy neighborhood."
After her father died and her mother was diagnosed with dementia, she decided selling the house was her best option. I started showing her pictures from inside — the living room, the Elvis license plate, old cassette tapes. (Turns out, Momma was an Elvis fanatic.)
The stories kept coming: about the driveway her dad built for her mother because she couldn’t drive all that well and kept almost driving into a ditch, about the family’s pet cemetery in the backyard, about her dad's penchant for card games and her mothers dedication to church.
Glenda told me that she doesn’t plan to go back to Sherwood Lane. She’s not ready and she’s not sure she ever will be.
The developer recently completed the plans for 1807 Sherwood Lane. They’re building two houses on the lot.
Update — Here's what 1807 Sherwood Lane looked like on April 14, the day after this podcast was published:
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