“No good deed goes unpunished,” usually attributed to Oscar Wilde, describes the situation facing the Franklin Cinema on Main Street. I was just there last month; downtown Franklin is one of the more beautiful and vibrant downtowns in Tennessee, a delight to residents as well as visitors. This 70-year-old movie theater now faces sale and probable demolition precisely because Franklin’s historic preservation efforts have been so successful.
According to an article in the Tennessean, “Franklin Cinema building owner Mark Bloom has given has given Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County officials a Sept. 15 deadline to put together a deal to purchase the former movie theater.” The article mentions a figure of $2 million.
The Tennessee Preservation Trust just put the theater on their “Ten in Tennessee” list of endangered historic sites, and you can bet that the usual frantic negotiations are taking place among city officials, private donors, and non-profit groups. With any luck, an agreement will be reached, a joyous announcement will be made, the building will be saved, and historic preservation will triumph.
Until the next time. And the one after that. When historic preservation succeeeds, it raises the stakes on communities to save all of their important structures, leading to donor fatigue, debates in local government, and last-minute agreements that aren’t always best for the long run.
Yet saving old buildings is worth the effort. Look at this photo of Main Street in Franklin:
You see 19th Century storefronts, trees, and antique-looking lightposts. Contrast this with Cool Springs, the modern part of Franklin to the east along I-65. Cool Springs is the land of Applebees–you might as well be in Columbus, Ohio or the outskirts of Kansas City. It has no soul.
So let’s hope the Franklin Cinema can be saved. And if it is saved, the first movie shown should be The Majestic.
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