The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, TN, has compiled its first annual Sites to Save list, which seeks to identify historic places in Williamson County that are vulnerable to demolition, development or neglect.
The Sites to Save list is designed as a tool to help the community come alongside the Heritage Foundation in its efforts to raise awareness of Williamson County’s significant historic, cultural, geographical and archaeological resources, including buildings, structures, cemeteries, historic districts, archaeological sites, natural and cultural landscapes, while respecting the rights of property owners whose land may include such resources.
SITES TO SAVE - 2022 CLASS
Historic Franklin Masonic Hall
Built c.1823, the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall is the oldest three-story building in Franklin and is the earliest significant Gothic Revival building in Tennessee. The Masonic fraternity known as Hiram Lodge No. 7 of Free and Accepted Masons was chartered in 1809. It is the oldest continually operating Masonic fraternity in the state, and the Hall was the meeting site for generations of Franklin’s most prominent businessmen and civic leaders.
The building played an important, if ignoble, role in U.S. history. In August 1830, three months after President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, he met with Chickasaw Nation representatives at the Masonic Hall to negotiate the Treaty of Franklin. This was the first and only time a president met with an Indian council to negotiate a treaty, which resulted in the removal of the Chickasaw from their homelands, the commencement of the Trail of Tears, and the acceleration of westward expansion by the United States. While President Jackson met with the group, he did not sign the treaty itself. It was signed by two members of his cabinet, Secretary of War John Eaton, a native of Franklin, and Indian Commissioner John Coffee.
Occupied by Confederate and Federal soldiers during the Civil War, the Hall suffered significant damage during the Battle of Franklin (1864) but was later restored. The Masons received funds from the United States government in 1916 for damages done during the war and used the funds to raise the front parapet walls, relocating the staircase all the way to the third floor on the northwest side of the Hall.
Designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior through the National Park Service, the Hall still serves the Hiram Lodge No. 7 today, but faces many structural challenges.
Old Natchez Trace - Vaughn Road Segment, Franklin, TN
Located in northwest Williamson County, Vaughn Road segment from Sneed Road to Strickland Road represents a portion of Williamson County’s original Natchez Trace, an ancient network of trails that led from Nashville to Natchez, MS. This portion lies directly on, across, and over the footprint of the original Natchez Trace and still retains its historic, culturally significant, and scenic integrity on the Natchez Trace Historic Rural Landscape. Previously named to the Ten in Tennessee Most Endangered Places List by the Tennessee Preservation Trust in 2016, the site is still under threat from development. Plans exist to place seven large residences on only 13 acres of land fronting Vaughn Road.
Burns Farm - Arrington, Tennessee
The Burns Farm and House on Patton Road is the last functioning rural farm with a historic house in the fast-developing Triune area. The two-story vernacular farmhouse was built ca 1900 and may contain an original log structure from the early 1880s. Threatened by development, the farmhouse has the potential to help retain the rural character of the community and serve as an anchor for tourism, multimodal trails, and meet the requirements of the Triune Special Area Plan adopted by Williamson County in 2007 as part of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Natchez Historic District Franklin, TN
The Natchez Street Historic District, a National Register District listed for its African American ethnic heritage, is in danger of losing its historic integrity from the rapid development pressures in Franklin. The Natchez Street Historic District, unlike Franklin’s four other National Registered Districts, is not within the Franklin Historic Preservation Overlay. Currently, new development and demolition is expanding in and around the district.
Gaylor House - Franklin, TN
The Gaylor House, originally built ca 1900, is a contributing structure to the Nachez Street Historic District in Franklin. From 1956 to 1961, the Gaylor home at 253 Nachez Street was the only Franklin listing in the historic Negro Travelers’ Green Book. Providing a list of safe accommodations and restaurants for African American travelers, The Green Book was a life-saving tool during a time when they were banned from many establishments. The Gaylor home was first identified as extant during a 2017-2018 survey of Tennessee’s Green Book properties by preservationists at MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation, New South Associates, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The home and others now have wider appreciation following the Oscar-winning movie, The Green Book (2019). Today it is owned by the Shorter Chapel AME and is slated to be used as a community center; however, the structure has significant water damage and structural issues.
The Creekside Property
The Creekside house near the intersection of Franklin Road and Mack Hatcher was built in 1835, according to the Tennessee Historical Commission. Developer Capital Investment Group is currently proposing construction of a residential neighborhood on the property, on both sides of Franklin Road, of 33 single family homes and 32 multiplex buildings, each of which would contain four apartments.
A subdivision is not an unexpected proposal for this tract along a state highway and the Mack Hatcher bypass, but the history of this site has barely been told. The Creekside home is significant for its age and also because it was the home of Sarah Florence McEwen Adkerson (1846-1867), who was one of the daughters of John B. McEwen, mayor of Franklin during the Civil War. The property became heavily used during Federal occupation in 1863 and, sitting directly off of Franklin Road, witnessed troop movements following the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. Sarah married Rev. W.L. Rosser in 1866 and died a year later in childbirth at age 20, but her only child Florence Rosser Adkerson (1867-1951) lived on the property her entire life.
The developers of the current proposal say they intend to make the home a significant feature of the neighborhood entrance, but any large-scale development would be a major change to downtown Franklin’s northern gateway.
Beard’s Grocery & Market - Franklin, TN
Located at the crossroads of Carter Creek Pike and Southall Road, Beard’s Grocery & Market, a ca. 1900 building, has been a general store since around 1945. The crossroads has long been a community hub. Peter and Sue Scruggs, formally enslaved, operated a blacksmith shop, and later, a Standard Oil gas station occupied the spot. In 1947, Richard and Lera Beard placed their name on the store with Lera leaving the store in 1986. Operating as Halfway Market, the long-time store closed in June 2019. The store is in repairable condition but is experiencing road widening, a new traffic signal, altered drainage, and reduced the land around the former community hub.
Frierson-Voorhies Cemetery, Hardscuffle Community Brentwood, TN
The Frierson-Voorhies Cemetery is the final physical reminder of the once thriving African American Hardscuffle community in Brentwood. Hardscuffle, founded just after the Civil War by formerly enslaved people, began to decline after community members sold their property during the construction of the nearby Interstate 65. Without its community and ownership unclear, the cemetery has become neglected.
Daniel McMahon House - Franklin, TN
The Daniel McMahon house is a two-story frame and log residence located on the Franklin First United Methodist Church property near Franklin Road and Mack Hatcher. This home, added to the National Register in 1988, started around 1812 as a sprawling farm owned by one of the county's earliest settlers, Revolutionary War veteran Daniel McMahon. The house, long neglected, suffers from water damage, mold, and other issues.
Nolensville Historic Corridor - Nolensville, TN
The Nolensville Historic Corridor and business district along Nolensville Road continues to be threatened by development pressures. State Hwy 31, Nolensville Road, is a main thoroughfare between Nashville’s suburbs and Nolensville's own explosive growth. Increased traffic along the highway and new development may further impact the district and its historic integrity.
Sites to Watch
In early May 2020, the city of Brentwood announced plans to raze the historic Brentvale log cabin. Constructed in 1830 for William Temple Sneed at Old Smyrna Road, the structure was moved to Crockett Park in 1930 and enlarged by combining two log cabins.
Throughout Williamson County, historic cemeteries, like Pointer Cemetery in Spring Hill, are threatened by new subdivisions in once rural parts of the county. Early pioneer families, including Henry Pointer (1785-1864), and Civil War veterans are among those buried in the historic Pointer Cemetery.
Located in Arrington, this cemetery holds the final resting places of some the county’s earliest settlers and is threatened by the development of a subdivision off Cox Road. Its stone walls are said to contain the burial of David McCord (1745 – 1819) who served in the Revolutionary War, among other family members.
Civil War Earthworks
The Civil War earthworks off Spanntown Road in Triune spread across 500 acres and multiple private tracts is a Civil War fortification one preservation expert called “one of the most intact and unaltered set of Civil War earthworks in the U.S.” The earthworks provided protection as well as a crucial signaling station for U.S. soldiers to communicate between Franklin and Murfreesboro.
Commitment To Advocacy
For each of the sites on the list, staff at the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County plan to:
Attend relevant public meetings that involve the sites on the list.
Consult with willing property owners and municipalities about the history of the property and offer insight on preservation and restoration.
Connect willing property owners with construction and preservation experts related to the needs of the site.