Campaign to Protect Rural Tennessee?

April 12, 2009


Quick–where was this picture taken? Could be in East Tennessee or Middle Tennessee. No matter where it is, it’s a beautiful place, one that would be a joy to live near, commute alongside, or spend part of a vacation just driving past.

The photo was actually taken in the England, and it’s from the website of a remarkable group called The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

And it’s just the kind of organization we need for Tennessee.

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Hale Springs Inn: the walls come tumbling down

February 25, 2008

Rogersville’s Hale Springs Inn, which has served presidents going back as far as Andrew Jackson, is undergoing a renovation project aimed at updating the rooms and putting in a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Inn sits right on the main drag in Rogersville, and is the most impressive building in that town.


When builders got to an 1870s addition to the historic structure, however, they found that they don’t build hotels like that anymore. Thank goodness. Sometime during the night in January, the wall came tumbling down. Read the rest of this entry »

Fort Negley visitor center opens

December 14, 2007

According to the Tennessean, the long overdue visitors center for Nashville’s Fort Negley opens on Saturday. Located south of downtown–Map of 534 Chestnut St Nashville, TN 37203-4803, US–and the largest Civil War site in the city, the name Fort Negley might as well be short for Fort Neglected.


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Downtown Chattanooga: a man and his mural

October 10, 2007

Chattanooga’s Main Street area is on the rebound, and while walking through it last month I came upon a man holding a large piece of paper and staring intently at a mural in the works on the other side of the street. He turned out to be Shaun LaRose, master of murals and fine art.


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Niswonger Foundation fuels Greeneville revival

September 16, 2007

The progressive Niswonger Foundation, founded by East Tennessean Scott Niswonger, who made his money with a trucking company called Landair and Forward Air, Inc., is pouring money into making Greeneville a better place to live. The Foundation built a $7 million Performing Arts Center and now has set its sights on making Greeneville “a unique, pedestrian- oriented community where people can live, work and play within walking distance of a vibrant downtown.”



(Illustration from Rediscover Greeneville Tennessee)

A new website lays out the plans, which make sense for a lot of other Tennessee towns as well. The most interesting part to me is the strategy page, which contains some very good goals. Here are some of those goals and my comments on them:

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Opening Brushy Mountain Prison for tourists?

July 30, 2007

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a short article noting the closing of Brushy Mountain Prison and raising the possibility that it be opened for visitors. Prison tourism has certainly paid off for some places. Alcatraz Island is on the short list of “must-sees” in San Francisco and Boston is about to open a hotel–jocularly named the Liberty Hotel–in the former Charles Street Jail. Then there’s this former prison in Oxford, England, where people can spend the night.

As interesting as Brushy Mountain might be to visitors, it has two strikes against it.


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Powell Service Station Airplane to fly again?

July 28, 2007

Just south of Ciderville between Knoxville and Clinton stands one of the more interesting roadside attractions in Tennessee: the Powell Airplane Service Station. Built in 1930, the structure recalls the excitement of a time when aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes captured public imagination. It sits along Highway 25W, a stretch of the famed Dixie Highway that ran from Detroit to Miami.

In our time, when one can drive 500 miles in one day and seemingly enter the same gas station/convenience store over and over, we can only imagine the delight of motorists from far away coming around the corner and seeing this fanciful building.

Such structures once graced American highways, but almost all have been bulldozed. This one survives, just barely. A wonderful group calling itself the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association seeks to restore the station to its original condition. Their website details progress and gives an address to which supporters can send donations.


More photos here.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

The last picture show in Franklin?

July 23, 2007

“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.


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Rattle and Snap rolls out carriage house for guests

May 2, 2007

Rattle and Snap, the most stunning plantation home in Tennessee and one of the finest ones in the entire South, will soon open its carriage house for overnight guests. Built by a member of Tennessee’s Polk family–kinfolks of President James K. Polk–Rattle and Snap was named for a dice game in which the Polk family won the land on which it is built. More details can be found here.

The house was lovingly restored by Amon Carter Evans, who opened it to thousands of visitors per year. When he sold the plantation, however, the regularly scheduled visits came to an end. Rattle and Snap is one of the few plantation homes that still sits amid farmland, so this will be a wonderful place to stay.


Slave Descendant now on Plantation Board of Directors

February 18, 2007

Today’s Tennessean has an interesting story on one of the newer board members of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. Like many board members of such properties, Luvenia Butler has longtime family ties to the state and the city. Unlike her colleagues on the board, however, Ms. Butler is the descendant of slaves who belonged to the owners of Belle Meade.

This is extraordinary. Plantations that depend on tourism revenue have been making progress in coming to terms with the fact that their fortunes were built on human bondage, first by acknowledging that slavery took place, second by discussing it on tours and in exhibits, and finally by identifying and restoring slave quarters. To my knowledge, however, this is a first.

You can read more on Belle Meade here.