Knoxville residents and UT students have been, for decades, vaguely aware of Robertshaw Controls, a factory that hunkered down along Third Creek between the main UT Campus and the Agriculture Campus. You can see it by going here and clicking on “satellite.” Now the old factory has been sold, and will soon be torn down. Jack Neely, the “Secret History” columnist in Metro Pulse, weighs in this week on how no one seems to have considered adapting the facilities for other uses.
“Historic building” is not limited to plantation home or old courthouses. Factories in Tennessee have been successfully redeveloped, and can be used for distinctive shopping or residential areas. Two that come to mind immediately are outside Nashville.
The Mill at Lebanon is an ambitious project involving taking an approximately 200,000 square-foot campus on 15 acres, just one block from the square in downtown Lebanon, Tennessee and converting it to mixed use retail/entertainment/office/residential redevelopment.
The Factory at Franklin has transformed the circa-1929 buildings that once served as the Dortch Stove Works, Magic Chef and later the Jamison Bedding Company, just six blocks from downtown Franklin, into a shopping and dining complex.
Much of the manufacturing capacity of Tennessee was (and was is a sad word in this case) concentrated in East Tennessee. My home town of Kingsport has suffered from several factory shut-downs, including the Borden Mills, where my grandfather worked; the Kingsport Press; the local foundry. While vague plans are underway to rework the Borden Mills building, the other facilities either have been or will be demolished.
Reworking factories for new uses, as Franklin and Lebanon have shown, can be a great way of reusing historic buildings and hosting housing or commercial ventures in truly distinctive surroundings.