Nashville continues to evolve at a rapid pace, which has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. As urban planning brings exciting new developments, some historic homes and landmarks have fallen victim to progress, and for longtime Nashville residents, an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mentality can be discouraging. Thankfully, there are those who take special care to preserve the architecture and foundation upon which this city was built. Even better, some of our newest Nashville neighbors are doing their part to honor the character of the city. This is a feel-good story you don’t want to miss!
If you ask Ridley Wills, owner of The Wills Company, the influx of newcomers to Nashville is what creates our vibrant community. However, the renowned architect also admits, “While reinvention and growth have long been a part of Nashville’s history, new is not always better.” Fortunately, Ridley is one of Music City’s greatest advocates for preserving history, frequently spearheading builds and renovations that infuse modern elements without sacrificing a home’s historic integrity. One such home, a majestic residence on Tyne Boulevard in Belle Meade, is the perfect example — and it offers a fun little story with a happy ending to boot.
Built in 1923, the nearly century-old residence has hosted several prominent families over the years, including former Northwestern Mutual Managing Partner Bill Cochran. It was also home to the Oman family for several decades, who added a serious dose of style and flair to the classic estate. “She renovated the house and had a lot of style,” Ridley says of the Oman family’s matriarch. “One of the things she put in were these gates at the front entry.” The gates he is referring to are a set of custom, locally made wrought iron stunners that have weathered years of Nashville’s transformation.
Installed decades ago, the ornate entry pieces have also witnessed the growth of those who’ve inhabited or visited the home since, including Mrs. Oman’s granddaughter, Delphine Sloan Damon. “They were a prominent part of coming and going from the house,” Delphine says of the gates she often saw during her childhood. “Many family photos feature us at the front door. Also, my grandmother had a German shepherd who liked to sit and watch the outdoors. The gates were kept shut so the front door could be open while he watched the world go by.”
But recently, the fate of the gates hung in the balance as recent transplants Kent and Jamie Capps purchased the residence and began upgrading the space to modernize it for their family. Though the new owners are doing their best to ensure the home remains compatible with the neighborhood, the gates didn’t have a place in their remodel. However, the Capps, who moved here from Texas, are working hard to respect the property’s history, even as they renovate. Not to mention, they have Ridley at the helm of their remodel, helping them along the way.
“It’s important for Nashvillians to welcome newcomers into our culture and teach them what is special about our city, including our architectural heritage,” says Ridley. Jamie adds, “The home will be 100 years old next year. We are so thankful that we have the opportunity to put our mark on the home and be the stewards of the property as it enters its next hundred years. The prior owners have put so much love and care into the property; we’re thankful to have the chance to carry on their legacies.”
With that sentiment in mind, the Capps gifted the beautiful gates to Delphine, returning them to the family who installed them so many years ago. “Jamie and I are thrilled that we have been able to reconnect Delphine with something that reminds her of her grandmother and all of the great memories of the house on Tyne as she grew up,” says Kent. “We are excited that we will be able to carry on the house’s legacy, and we hope to write similar memories during our time with it.”
By connecting the two families, Ridley is helping the Tyne Boulevard residence continue its narrative. “It’s a unique gift. When Ridley renovates a home, he loves it as the new owners will,” says his wife Betsy, overjoyed at the gift exchange. “This is a nice story of someone new to Nashville having sensitivity about the architecture and history of the city and wanting to be a part of that. Each owner has left their mark, and they’re trying to retain that history.”
The gesture was particularly impactful for Delphine, who has installed the gates in her garden — a place she spends a great deal of time. “It is deeply meaningful to me to have them at the house I hope to live in for a very long time,” she tells us. “I am so grateful to the Capps for their generosity and kindness … I adored my grandmother. She was a woman of exquisite taste, and she opened her home to all her grandchildren. She taught us all to play solitaire; we painted and went to the beach with her, and she allowed us to play in her couture clothing. She was a tiny woman, so her dresses fit many of us. We even played dress-up in her wedding dress! Her house was a place of fun. She kept our favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream in single portions, all marked with various grandchildren’s names, and woke us up in the middle of the night sometimes to have a treat. To have such a beautiful reminder at our home is truly a priceless gift.”
We hope to continue to find more stories of New Nashville and Old Nashville coexisting in such a lovely way!
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