AMERICAN PICKERS MIKE WOLFE, HISTORIC NASHVILLE FOCUS ON PRESERVATION, ANNOUNCE THIS YEAR’S MOST ENDANGERED HISTORIC BUILDINGS AT THE BELCOURT THEATER IN HILLSBORO VILLAGE
“This past year served Nashville several reminders that preservation doesn’t just happen; these properties have to be guarded over. People have to be made aware of incentives and opportunities to preserve our history,” said Mike Wolfe, star of American Pickers, one of the most popular shows on the History Channel. Wolfe is also a passionate preservationist who has successfully led many preservation projects in LeClaire, Iowa, his hometown. This year he opened a second store in Nashville’s Marathon Motor Works, one of the city’s preservation success stories in a revitalized historic industrial area.
“This calendar year Nashville has watched bungalows in 12 South disappear and the historic Ransom School in West End get demolished. We’ve watched other landmarks – like this year’s Nashville Nine properties the Geist Blacksmith Shop and Mt. Olivet Cemetery – slip further and further into disrepair,” he said. “This year, let’s turn it around. Let’s work to get people motivated and informed about all the reasons why preservation is cool and important.”
This year marks the fourth year Historic Nashville has been accepting nominations from the public on historic buildings in need of protection. The Nashville Nine represents historic properties across Nashville in danger of being lost to demolition, neglect or inappropriate renovations. Throughout the year, Historic Nashville will focus its advocacy and education efforts on these locations.
There have been success stories from past Nashville Nine properties. The Tennessee State Prison moves one step closer to being redeveloped after very vocal public support for saving the unique historic landmark. The historic Highland Heights School in East Nashville, which houses KIPP Academy, is slated for a $10 million renovation. And the National Park Service is documenting the downtown French-Starr Piano building on 5thAvenue for its role in Nashville’s rich music history.
“The Nashville Nine has been one of our most powerful tools for saving the historic places that makes Nashville unique,” said Robbie D. Jones, Historic Nashville president. “The program engages the public and allows us to be proactive, instead of reactive, as we attempt to put the spotlight on endangered historic places that all too often don’t get attention until it’s too late.”
The 2012 Nashville Nine list highlights nine historically significant properties that make Nashville a good place to live, work and play. Nominated by the public, the 2012 list contains two properties from previous Nashville Nine lists, as concerns about their continued viability require additional attention.
Descriptions include a brief history of the properties and current threats. Throughout the year, Historic Nashville will work with the owners, government agencies, and public to educate, evaluate and create solutions for preserving these important elements of Nashville’s unique history.
The Historic Nashville 2012 Nashville Nine
Free Will Baptist Bible College/ Welch College, 3606 West End Avenue, early 1900s
Established as the Free Will Baptist Bible College in 1942, this campus enjoys a prime location in a quiet residential area off West End. Recently renamed Welch College, the four-year private Christian college is looking to grow beyond the size of its current campus, and plans to relocate to a new 66-acre campus in Sumner County. The current campus consists of several grand early twentieth century residences converted to academic use by the school – including some of the last examples of historic residential architecture on West End, which was once a streetcar artery spurring high-end residential development. It remains a desirable location. Since only part of the college property is protected by conservation zoning, this valuable real estate that many would be happy to purchase (perhaps with help from https://www.sofi.com/home-loans/mortgage-refinance/ or similar providers) is threatened with demolition of the last of the historic grand homes lining West End Avenue and redevelopment such as out-of-scale condominiums.
Hillsboro-West End National Register Historic District, Midtown, c.1910-1940
Composed of sections of over thirty streets of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival and Minimal Traditional-style homes, this district represents Nashville’s suburban development between two of the city’s main western arteries, West End Avenue and 21st Avenue South/Hillsboro Pike. The Hillsboro West End Historic District illustrates the plight of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places that do not fall under accompanying local preservation zoning ordinances. Parts of the district are covered by conservation zoning, which regulates demolition and the scale of new construction.
However, the streets on the edge of the district are only a part of the strictly honorary National Register district and its desirable midtown location has made it popular with developers who demolish historic houses and replace them with multi-family or out-of scale houses. A demolition permit has recently been issued for a house on West Linden Avenue, and other could have the same fate soon if additional zoning is not put into place.
Hillsboro Village, 1800 Block, early 1900s
Hillsboro Village is one of Nashville’s few remaining early twentieth century suburban commercial corridors. Currently unprotected with conservation zoning, most of the blocks are owned by the H.G. Hill Realty Co., which plans to demolish the 1800 Block of buildings within the district to construct a mixed-use, multi-story apartment development at year’s end. Preservationists have advocated for redevelopment of the 1800 block of Hillsboro Village in a manner that preserves the character of the vibrant and well-loved historic commercial district.
John Geist & Sons Blacksmith Shop, 311 Jefferson Street, Germantown, 1891-1905
This historic landmark has continued to deteriorate since first listed on the 2009 Nashville Nine. Both buildings suffer from significant water damage, structural failure and neglect. Until it closed its doors in 2006, the John Geist & Sons Blacksmith Shop was thought to be Nashville’s oldest business in continuous family ownership and operation. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, the Tennessee Preservation Trust included this landmark on its 2008 list of the state’s 10 most endangered properties. The property is currently on the real estate market. The property continues to be threatened with neglect, deterioration and demolition.
Monroe Harding Inc., 1120 Glendale, Green Hills, c.1930s
Mrs. Fannie Harding founded what became the Monroe Harding Children’s Home in 1893 as a Presbyterian Orphanage. Making the gift in honor of her husband, Dr. James Monroe Harding, Fannie Harding donated her family home and five acres on 18th Avenue North in Nashville. By the 1930s, the facility needed more space and after a building campaign the current location in Green Hills was purchased. The main Colonial Revival-style building designed by prominent Nashville architect, Henry C. Hibbs provided a feeling of pastoral solidity during the unstable years of the Great Depression and in the following decades for children with a turbulent past. Overall the campus still retains its idyllic setting. The property was nominated by a citizen who feared development pressure would force the organization to move. HNI has met with Monroe Harding leadership and learned they are committed to maintaining their location. “Monroe Harding has been changing young people’s lives through foster care, group homes, and other services for 119 years, we intend to do it for another 119,” said CEO Mary Baker. Historic Nashville is pleased to feature this property on the Nashville Nine list to show that in this property’s case, the perceived threat is unwarranted.
Montgomery House, 914 Meridian Street, East Nashville, c.1910
The Montgomery House at 914 Meridian Street in East Nashville’s Cleveland Park neighborhood was recently condemned by Metro Codes due to neglect and deterioration. Built around 1910 for original owner John J. Keyes, the Montgomery House is a Craftsman-influenced Bungalow occupied by the Police Athletic League (PAL) from 1985-2005 and North Edgefield Organized Neighbors (NEON) since 2008. The Metro Development and Housing Agency renovated the building with federal funding in 1985, getting some new glass panel installations in the bathrooms and other spaces around the property, and the Metro Historical Commission designated it a Local Landmark in 2006. Since it has been condemned, it is threatened by continued deferred maintenance and possible trespassing by vagrants. Such trespassing caused a damaging fire in the NEON owned historic Gallatin Road Fire Hall, listed on the 2011 Nashville Nine.
Mt. Olivet Cemetery Chapel & Office, 1101 Lebanon Pike, Donelson, 1870s
The Mt. Olivet Cemetery Chapel and Office has continued to deteriorate since first listed in the 2009 Nashville Nine. Built in stages between the 1870s and 1940s, the historic landmark suffers from significant water damage, broken windows and doors and structural failure. However, the doors can be fixed by using a Commercial door repair service. The water damage could quite possibly have been caused by a blockage in the guttering which accumulated over time and led to leaks in the roofing and inner walls. To prevent this from continuing, property owners could look into services like Clean Pro Gutter Cleaning Nashville to clear the offending material and improve the overall look of the building’s exterior. Likely designed by Ryman Auditorium architect, Hugh Cathcart Thompson, the Gothic Revival-style building functioned as the chapel and offices for the historic cemetery until it was replaced with a new facility in 1996. The building and cemetery were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, the same year it was also listed on the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s endangered properties list. Officials with Historic Nashville and the Metro Historical Commission have held multiple meetings with the staff in hopes of creating a plan to save the building from the wrecking ball. Some positive momentum has come from the talks as Mt. Olivet leadership allowed the Nashville City Cemetery Association and Tennessee State Library and Archives to remove the cemetery records and scan them, creating a permanent digital archive. The property continues to be threatened with neglect, deterioration and demolition.
Wade School, 5022 Old Hydes Ferry Pike, Scottsboro and Bell’s Bend, 1936
Now vacant, the Wade School first served the children of the Scottsboro and Bells Bend community in 1936. Built with New Deal funding during the Great Depression, the brick building retains original and distinctive Classical Revival-style elements; such as arched entrance portico and oval gable vents. Commercially zoned, the building is currently on the real estate market. Unless a preservation-minded buyer is found, the vacant landmark is threatened with deterioration and demolition.
Utopia Hotel, 206 Fourth Avenue, Downtown, 1890-91
Built of stone in the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style, the Utopia Hotel was opened in 1891 on Fourth Avenue in what was then Nashville’s Men’s District, a concentration of bars, gambling halls and other places respectable ladies were not permitted to visit. The building is unique for its very narrow footprint. Other than the bottom floor now used as a dry cleaners, the rest of the building is vacant with some missing windows and deterioration. Plans in recent years to turn the upper stories into lofts fell through with the economic downturn. It is currently threatened by continued neglect.
About Historic Nashville, Inc.
Established in 1968 and renamed in 1975, Historic Nashville, Inc. (HNI) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 membership organization with the mission to promote and preserve the historic places that make Nashville unique. Over the years, HNI has successfully advocated for the preservation of such historic places the Ryman Auditorium, Union Station, Hermitage Hotel, 2nd Avenue & Lower Broadway, and Shelby Street Bridge, as well as neighborhood historic districts throughout the city. In 1982, HNI established the state’s first Preservation Easement program and currently owns easements on 16 historic landmarks with a market value of over $30 million.
HNI hosts an annual membership meeting, publishes a newsletter, maintains a website, hosts educational programs such as tours and the annual Nashville Nine list of endangered properties. For additional information, please visit www.historicnashvilleinc.org and our Facebook page.