Briefly describe your role with the Historical Commission.
I oversee the work of both the Metro Historical Commission (MHC) and the Metro Historic Zoning Commission (MHZC). The MHC is a municipal historic preservation agency working to document history, save and reuse buildings, and make the public more aware of the necessity and advantages of preservation across Davidson County. Created in 1966, the commission consists of 15 citizens members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by Metro Council.
The Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission (MHZC) is an architectural review board which reviews applications for work on properties that are within a Historic Overlay. Its nine volunteer members, appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council, include representatives from zoning districts, the Metro Planning Commission, the Metro Historical Commission; architects, and other citizen.
Just how busy has your team been, lately, on historic issues? Do any stand out?
The staff is busier than any time in our history. The number of staff in the office has not increased since 2005, but our workload has continued to increase. This is especially the case with the historic overlay program, where the number of properties in local districts has more than doubled in the last 10 years. With so much staff time now dedicated to the historic zoning program, there is less time available for history-related projects, including writing National Register nominations and surveying historic resources.
Why did you choose to live in Lockeland Springs, and how did its history factor into locating here?
Prior to moving to the neighborhood, I rented an apartment in Hillsboro Village. I only began spending time here following the tornado in 1998, when the office allocated additional resources to help property owners struggling to make home repairs. That’s how I met the owners of the house I now own. The architectural character, urban charm, and the neighborhood’s sense of community were a definite draw. The former homeowner’s insurance company considered the house to be a total loss due to damage suffered from the storm, and they had planned to demolish the structure and put the cleared land on the market. When I walked through the house, I felt it had lots of potential. After pondering for a week, I offered to purchase the house as-is. Six months later and once the insurance claim was settled, they sold me the property and I began a slow rehab of the house, eventually moving in, 12 months later, having made one of the best decisions of my life.
Which specific homes or architectural elements do you recommend seeing?
There are so many; it’s difficult to choose only a few, but I’ll limit my choices to three: the Tennessee State Capitol and Downtown Presbyterian Church, both National Historic Landmarks, and United Record Pressing. The State Capitol (600 Charlotte Ave.) and its grounds are an architectural gem. Built 1845-1859, the Capitol was designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland in the Greek Revival style. Unfortunately, the building is only open during the week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the grounds are always open and contain the gravesite of President James K. Polk and the famed equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson.
The Downtown Presbyterian Church (154 5th Ave. N.) was constructed between 1849-51 and was also designed by Strickland, but in the Egyptian Revival style. Its interior sanctuary space is unique and has been painstakingly restored over the last decade.
Finally, United Record Pressing (453 Chestnut St.) is an important site in Nashville’s music legacy. The company opened as Southern Plastics in 1949 and has been in its current location since 1962. The largest vinyl record pressing plant in North America, clients included Vee Jay and Motown records, and due to segregation in the 1960s the company built an apartment suite to house African American execs and artists, now called the “Motown Suite.” Its party room has hosted record label signing parties for The Supremes, Wayne Newton, the Cowsills and a teenage Hank Williams Jr. Tours are Fridays at 11 a.m. or by appointment.