It’s no secret that Nashville is growing, changing and expanding each and every day. There are new restaurants opening by the day and new developments going up seemingly on every block — to accommodate the people who are moving here by the carload. Here at StyleBlueprint we relish the change and celebrate the good things happening in our home, visiting said restaurants and sharing our thoughts on the latest. In the same breath, though, we share in the nostalgia of long-time residents and support the preservation of the places that make Nashville Nashville.
Historic Nashville, Inc. (HNI), or just Historic Nashville, is a nonprofit that was established in 1968 to preserve some of Music City’s special buildings and, more importantly, to ensure the memories within those walls wouldn’t fade. The organization advocates for the places that make Nashville unique, and they are the reason that some of our city’s most notable establishments remain. With a wide variety of educational, advocacy and preservation programs, Historic Nashville works to ensure that their mission — to preserve and promote Nashville’s most historic places — is accomplished. To name a few, Union Station, The Ryman and Second Avenue were all saved largely due to the dedication of Historic Nashville.
While those big names were certainly big wins, Jenn Harrman, Historic Nashville’s president, shares, “My favorite stories are the lesser told victories that are about the smaller communities here within the greater city of Nashville. Places like Layman Drug, which was listed on our “Nashville Nine” and beautifully restored for use as a local business and studio, or our most recent addition to our easement program, the Betty Nixon House.” It is these spaces, the lesser known stories within them and the faces behind them, that drive Jenn to be a fighting force for preservation in Nashville.
The Nashville Nine
The Nashville Nine, introduced in 2009, is a list released annually that names nine places currently endangered by development or demolition. Jenn explains, “Our Nashville Nine program is our strongest advocacy tool to bring awareness to the historic places that make Nashville unique.” From neon signs to beloved buildings, the list includes those irreplaceable landmarks that have played a role in the formation of Music City.
These nine places are publicly nominated and bring to light the landmarks that Nashville residents hold dear. The 2018 nominations, which were ironically announced at the now-shuttered 2018 Nashville Nine nominee Bobby’s Idle Hour, included everything from the Monroe Harding Children’s Home to the historic working-class neighborhoods like Chestnut Hill, The Nations, Buena Vista and Cleveland Park, each threatened by development. Over the next year, Historic Nashville will work to save these nominees (with the exception of Bobby’s, which will soon be demolished for an office building to be built in its place), focusing their education and advocacy efforts there.
Jenn tells us that on top of bringing public awareness to the preservation issues that face Nashville today, the Nashville Nine list has encouraged neighborhoods and their members to take notice of the places around them. Specifically, the list urges residents to note how these places inform their identity as a neighborhood or communally, as a city. And then, our community is better equipped to stand up and fight for the places that truly speak to our history.
“First and foremost, we are an advocacy organization, and as such, we strongly encourage local community members to get involved by talking to their Council person about the places that matter to them and that they feel make Nashville unique.” So, while Historic Nashville welcomes any and all volunteers with open arms (they have no paid staff!), they know that the most valuable thing a resident of Nashville can do is to find the space with history that means something special to them and be an advocate for it, wholeheartedly. “We have a board full of experts and passionate preservationists, but the stronger voice is often the individuals in a community speaking up for a building.”
Preservation, it seems, is most earnestly found when the community forges forward for its neighbors — the people and places that have played central roles in the Nashville we love.
Preservation Meets Development
In a time where clean, neutral lines and new, minimalistic designs have taken center stage, there’s something to be said for championing the character of the spaces that house the stories. Nashville, in all its growing glory, is peppered with special places laden with those stories — and daresay, more importantly, that hold the hope of housing more each year.
Jenn tells us, “We are often mistaken as being against progress and development. That is not the case. Preservation takes many forms. We want to see Nashville’s built environment continue to embody the character of Nashville, but that doesn’t mean it should be static or placed in a glass box to never change.” The nonprofit seeks to find common ground with developers so that together they can save the historic structures. And beyond just preserving the past, repurposing rather than rebuilding is a financial tool that Historic Nashville believes is key in the future development of our city.
A relatively new example of a way Historic Nashville is dedicated to rehabilitation is its Revolving Fund. Established in 2014, the fund is designed to raise money to purchase historic sites in danger of demolition. Then, they re-market those sites to buyers who are interested in their reformation. Easements and rehabilitation agreements are attached to the sale so that these homes will be preserved by their owners. Once sold, the money from the resale then goes back into the revolving fund and the process begins again.
“There is so much room for creativity when it comes to preservation that will accomplish the goals of preservation as well as development goals and even the goals of the city’s vision for the future as laid out by Nashville Next,” Jenn explains.
Historic Nashville’s purpose and passion are one and the same: A heart for the city of Nashville and preserving its story among — and along with — change. And that’s certainly a purpose we can get behind!
To learn more about and find out how you can get involved with Historic Nashville, visit historicnashvilleinc.com. Be sure to check out some of their tours, list of historic sites and be on the lookout for exciting things on Music Row this year!
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