History Gram - October 2020


October 2020


The MHC held a virtual meeting in September and approved a new historical marker for Dudley Park. Sponsored by The Core Fund, the marker will be placed at Dudley Park along 3rd Avenue South. The text reads:

"Originally known as Chestnut Street Park, land for this South Nashville park was purchased in 1913. That same year, two daughters of Parks Commission chairman Robert M. Dudley—Louise and Rebecca—died in a train accident in Iowa. The park was renamed in their memory in 1914. Baseball fields and a swimming pool were added in 1920, and the Works Progress Administration built a community center in the 1930s. The park often hosted weekly concerts and movie nights in addition to sports."

Also approved in September was a replacement historical marker for Neill S. Brown, funded by the Marker Project. The original marker sustained damage from the March 2020 tornado, so this provided an opportunity to update the marker text. It reads:

"Born in Giles County in 1810, Neill Smith Brown became a lawyer in 1834 and married Mary Ann Trimble (1816-1895) in 1839. At their nearby home, Idlewild, they raised eight children. Brown was a founder of the Whig Party in Tennessee and was elected governor in 1847, serving one term. His younger brother, John Calvin Brown (1827-1889), held the same position from 1871-75. Appointed U.S. Minister to Russia 1850-53, Neill Brown died in 1886 and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery."

The Metro Historical Commission Foundation’s Nashville Sites project continues to grow with the launch of a newly-released tour, "Nashville’s Early History." Davidson County Historian Dr. Carole Bucy wrote and narrated this tour. Be sure to check it out!

The YCAP building (1021 Russell Street) in the East End neighborhood of East Nashville has been sold by the YMCA to a new owner who plans to renovate the structure. The building, a former early 20th century church, was badly damaged in the March tornado. Staff has been in discussions with the new owner, who plans to expedite renovation plans and utilize the 20% Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit for National Register-listed buildings.

 A recent Nashville Scene article, "Historic Buildings in Nashville’s Black Neighborhoods Are Disappearing," features MHZC Commissioner Dr. Learotha Williams. The article highlights challenges with the preservation of such landmarks as the Morris Memorial Building and the Boyd House on Fisk University's campus. Dr. Williams currently leads the North Nashville Heritage Project, which documents the neighborhood's heritage through first-person accounts.

MHZC news

 The MHZC’s October public hearing will be on Wednesday, October 21st at 2:00 p.m. and will be a virtual meeting. Guidance regarding meeting access and submitting comments can be found on our Coronavirus Procedures page.

View the MHZC meeting schedule and application deadlines here. Access archived videos of the MHZC meetings on the Metro YouTube channel anytime!

Fort Negley Archeology Update

In consultation with MHC and under contract with Metro Parks, Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research (TVAR) conducted archaeological investigations at Fort Negley this summer. The purpose of this project was to locate and assess buried cultural resources within sections of Fort Negley identified in previous studies as areas possessing a high potential for yielding intact archaeological deposits. This work supplemented the Cultural Landscape Report that will help guide the park's development. Field investigations included geophysical exploration, mapping, surface inspection, soil probe and shovel testing, and unit excavation. TVAR utilized this multifaceted approach to maximize field efforts focused on locating and assessing buried cultural deposits associated with African American contraband camps and post-Civil War era occupations, troop encampments, or defensive line earthworks.

While the full report will be completed in October, the summary is now available. MHC would like to thank all the generous donors and funding organizations who helped make this project possible. Main funding sources were (in order of gift amount):

Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

MHC (thanks to the appropriation by Mayor Cooper that was approved by Metro Council)

Martin Brown

Metro Historical Commission Foundation

Metro Parks Foundation

Friends of Fort Negley

Awesome Without Borders

MHC also extends a special thanks to many more individual donors who contributed through the GoFundMe campaign for this project.

Federal Reserve Building Addition Approved

At their meeting on September 10th, the Metro Planning Commission (MPC) approved the proposed addition to the Federal Reserve Building located at 226 Third Avenue North. The MPC staff recommended approval of a 14-story addition to this three story National Register-listed building. The addition will require the placement of two structural columns through the center of the building’s former grand lobby space, and it may set a new standard for height of buildings in the Core Historic Subdistrict of the Downtown Code.


Rendering of now-approved proposed addition to Federal Reserve Bank. Source: Metro Planning Dept.

MHC attended the meeting and presented our case for disapproval, and after a long debate, the MPC approved the addition with the condition the height be lowered to 176 feet and 5 inches, which is the height of the rooftop mechanical penthouse on the Stahlman building located across the alley from the building. MHC is concerned that a new precedent for height has been set for mid-block buildings in the Core Historic District of the DTC, which will put more development pressure on the remaining historic buildings in this subdistrict. The addition, as approved, means the building will no longer meet the National Register criteria and will eventually be delisted. Read MHC's letter to the Planning Commission here.

Proposed Renamings in Honor of Civil Rights Leaders

A new ordinance before Metro Council proposes to rename 5th Avenue to Representative John Lewis Way. That effort is being led by At-Large Council Member Zulfat Suara and has strong support at Metro Council. Rep. Lewis, who attended American Baptist College and Fisk University, is hailed as one of the most significant civil rights advocates and was a leader in Nashville's historic lunch counter sit ins. Trained in nonviolent resistance, he was one of the 13 original "Freedom Riders" one of the "Big Six" leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. MHC staff prepared a Street Name Change Report to aid Council in their decision. You can follow Metro Council’s legislative process through the Metro Clerk's website.


Future Rep. John Lewis at a 1964 meeting of the at meeting of American Society of Newspaper Editors. Source: Library of Congress.

In a related effort, Council Member Nancy VanReece, who serves as Chair of Council’s Parks, Library and Arts Committee, plans to ask the Metro Park Board to name the Public Square Park for Diane Nash in honor of her contributions to Nashville’s civil rights movement. At the request of Metro Parks Director Monique Odom, MHC is currently working on a report to the Parks Board that summarizes Diane Nash’s contributions. The MHC report will be submitted at the November meeting of the Parks board.


Diane Nash (right) and C.T. Vivian (center) confront Mayor Ben West (center left) in Public Square Park, April 19, 1960. Credit: Nashville Public Library.

New Book Spotlights State Capitol

The Tennessee State Library & Archives and the Office of Secretary of State Tre Hargett recently announced the release of a new book chronicling the Tennessee State Capitol. This new book, Tennessee State Capitol: A Tennessee Treasure, celebrates the monumental building on Capitol Hill that has served as the Volunteer State’s seat of government since before the Civil War. The book was written and researched by former Assistant State Archivist Dr. Wayne Moore, and published by the Tennessee Secretary of State.

It is lavishly illustrated with rare photographs, maps, and other images from the Library & Archives’collections, some of which were only recently conserved. Topics include architect William Strickland and early construction, completion of the building, the capitol’s property and grounds, and subsequent renovations and restorations. Visit the Secretary of State's website for more information about the book.


History of Systemic Racism and the Outdoor Environment

Cumberland River Compact's popular River Talks series often features topics about history and culture in Nashville and beyond. The newest River Talk episode, "Black Faces, White Spaces: Systemic Racism and the Environment," the Compact's Executive Director Mekayle Houghton joins Dr. Carolyn Finney for a conversation on the historic and lived experiences that have brought us to where the environmental movement is today and how we can build a more inclusive, equitable and just future.

Dr. Carolyn Finney is a storyteller, author, and cultural geographer whose work aims to develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action. Her 2014 book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, examines through the lenses of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography how nature and the environment are racialized in America.

Nashville Retrospect History Map


Nashville's premier historical newspaper, The Nashville Retrospect, has just released a new Nashville History Map for purchase. One side features the exquisitely-detailed map of downtown Nashville from 1908, highlighted with 25 vintage colorized postcards and photos. Read the history of long-gone buildings, as well as those still standing, and see how the city looked over 100 years ago.

The reverse side features a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Twenty sites along the route are described with fascinating stories and historic images. Allen Forkum, editor of The Nashville Retrospect, relates his favorite tales, from the tragic to the amazing, in “A Storied Path.” For a limited time, the $10 price includes shipping and taxes--here's how you can order online today.

Metro Arts THRIVE Grants Now Open

The FY2021 application for THRIVE—Metro Arts' community arts funding program that encourages artistic and cultural experiences, community investment and neighborhood transformation — is now open. THRIVE funds artists and community organizations or businesses who completed arts projects in neighborhoods. The program strives to connect artists and organizations with the community to create neighborhood investments and transformations. By offering funding opportunities outside of the traditional grants process, THRIVE empowers artists and organizations to build, strengthen and cultivate communities in Davidson County.

Learn more about the program, view the guidelines and apply on the THRIVE page of Metro Arts' website.


Historical Marker Updates

On Friday, September 18th, a new historical marker for the Rock Block was dedicated at legendary live music venue Exit/In. Several founders of early Rock Block businesses spoke at the ceremony, as did Mayor Cooper and Council Members Brandon Taylor and Jeff Syracuse. In case you missed it, videos of the dedication are posted on the MHC's Facebook page!


Exit/In owner Chris Cobb, Mayor Cooper, CMs Taylor and Syracuse dedicate the new Rock Block marker. Credit: MHC.


The new Rock Block historical marker, between Exit/In and Hurry Back. Credit: MHC.

Library Logo

History Exhibits and Programs at the Nashville Public Library

October is Hispanic Heritage Month! In celebration, NPL will host "Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with San Rafael Duo: A Presentation of Latin Vibes (Online)" on Friday, October 9th from noon-1:00 p.m.

Tune into on NPL’s Youtube channel on Fridays at noon in October to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!

What's happening in Metro Parks? 

A magnificent exhibition, detailing the long-standing association of Centennial Park with music, is on exhibit at the Parthenon through December 6. As both subject and setting for many styles of music, Centennial Park has a historic liaison with song. The exhibit, ‘Music in the Park: Songs and Stories from Centennial Park, 1896-2020’ presents stories of the music, performers, and audiences in the park.


Musicians in Centennial Park at the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Credit: Metro Parks.

Four bountiful farmer’s markets are held regularly at or near one of Metro's many parks. Stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables and more. Halloween pumpkins for are also available for purchase. Here is the list of the markets with links to their schedules: 12 South Farmers Market, Bellevue Farmers Market, Richland Park Farmers Market, and Hip Donelson Farmers Market.


In late September, volunteers from Friends of Shelby Park and the Cumberland River Compact worked to restore a historic Shelby Park landmark to a more natural state. This hidden gem and one of the park's original features, Cave Spring had fallen into disrepair over the years. The surrounding concrete was adding to stormwater runoff as well as limiting the natural habitat around the spring. With a concrete channel extending from the cave entrance and further additions of concrete over the years, water had nowhere to go other than rushing down the sidewalk.

A major goal of this restoration project was to replace the concrete with a naturalized stream passage that allowed the water to slow down and invite a more natural habitat. Volunteers removed concrete with rock bars and helped prepare the site to be planted in early October. Read more about this restoration effort and the history of Cave Spring here.


Cave Spring, c. 1912. Source: Metro Archives.

Closed to the public for nearly the last nine months during a restoration overseen by MHC and Metro Parks, the historic Percy Warner Park Allée is slated to re-open on October 2nd! Read about the restoration efforts surrounding this beloved Nashville greenspace here.


Volunteers work to naturalize historic Cave Spring at Shelby Park. Credit: Cumberland River Compact.

Upcoming Events at Fort Negley

Fort Negley Visitors Center is currently not offering guided tours, though that may change in the coming months. Group events like Fossil Finders and the Nashville Civil War Roundtable are postponed indefinitely until deemed safe to resume.

Missing trips to Fort Negley? You can explore the history and beauty of the fort anytime through the Nashville Sites Fort Negley tour!

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Keep up with all recurring and special events on Fort Negley's Facebook events page!


Entance gate at Fort Negley. Credit: Trip Advisor.

NEH Grants Now Open

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is now accepting applications for Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions. These funds help small and mid-sized institutions — such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities — improve their ability to preserve and care for their significant humanities collections. Maximum award is $10,000. Application deadline is January 14, 2021.


Humanities Tennessee--2020 Southern Festival of Books (online)--October 1-11

Southeast Society of Architectural Historians--2020 Virtual Conference--October 2

APT International--Virtual Workshop: Demystifying Documentation Strategies--October 2-4

Nashville Public Television--Facing North: Jefferson Street, Nashville--October 2 (and streaming online)

Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival (virtual)--October 3

Historic Travellers Rest--Living History Days--October 7 & 24, November 7; Living History: Herbal Uses--October 10

Historic Germantown--Communicating Expectations to Developers: Historic Germantown's Good Neighbor Program--October 8

Nashville Public Library--Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with San Rafael Duo: A Presentation of Latin Vibes (Online)--October 9

Two Rivers Mansion--Spirit Legends Tours--October 9-10, 16-17 and 30-31

Historic Sumner, Inc./Gallatin Ghost Walk/Old Sumner Times-Record--Gallatin Ghost Walk--October 9 thru November 7

The Hermitage--Hermitage Ghost Tours--thru November 8

Nashville Parthenon--Music in the Park: Songs and Stories from Centennial Park 1896 – 2020 Exhibit--thru December 6; We Have a Vision: Nashville Women from the Centennial to Suffrage Exhibit--thru January 13

Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, Hendersonville TN--Between Two Worlds: The Art of Jairo Prado Opening and Exhibition--thru November 6

Tennessee State Museum--Lunch & Learn: Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in East TN

Tennessee Performing Arts Center--John Lewis: Good Trouble (watch online)

National Preservation Institute--Preserving History through Truth Telling with Tanya Denckla Cobb


Traditional Building Conference (virtual)--November 9-13

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens--Holiday LIGHTS--November 20 thru January 10

Battle of Franklin Trust and Carter House--Battle of Franklin Anniversary & Illumination--November 30


You can now support the Metro Historical Commission Foundation through your everyday purchases on Amazon! Shop using AmazonSmile and a portion of each purchase will go towards preservation projects in Nashville and Davidson County.

Check out our online newsletter archives!

Have a preservation-related event that you want us to include? 

Send a message to Caroline.Eller@Nashville.gov.