Historic Nashville Inc. Announces the 2023 Nashville Nine
A focus on the preservation of Nashville’s rich Civil Rights history
(Nashville, TN)— Since 2009, Historic Nashville, Inc. (HNI) has published the annual Nashville Nine, a list of local historic properties endangered by demolition, neglect or development. Every year, the Nashville Nine is compiled through a public nomination process, revealing historic buildings and places that matter to the people of our city.
Through this community-driven program, HNI has brought to the public’s attention a wide variety of the city’s endangered historic and cultural resources, including residential properties, parks, civic and commercial buildings, neighborhood schools, churches, and even neon signs. These properties represent a range of historic time periods, architectural styles, and building types that embody Nashville and Davidson County’s rich and diverse history.
This year, however, is different. As we prepare to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin or religion, we’re using this occasion to reflect on Nashville’s willingness to preserve the history of the struggle that led to this victory. Nashville has had many solid preservation wins. The Elks Lodge on Jefferson Street (a 2021 Nashville Nine
property) is undergoing a revitalization. Fort Negley (the sole 2017 Nashville Nine site) has been saved and, because of that, the Bass Street archaeological site is revealing the area’s long African American history. We’ve seen excitement about preservation spread and HNI is pleased to see our partners at the Preservation Society of Nashville and the newly founded Jefferson Street Historical Society both flourishing this year. HNI would also like to commend the Metro Historical Commission for their work documenting our Civil Rights Movement history and compiling resources for the city.
Of course we’ve also lost many important Civil Rights sites like the Jewish Community Center, the original Hattie Cotton Elementary School, or the historic First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, but we still have the opportunity to protect and save many important properties.
The Nashville Nine serves as Historic Nashville Inc.’s strongest advocacy tool for the preservation of Nashville’s unique history and sense of place. This includes buildings, neighborhoods, or historic landscapes in danger of being lost to demolition, redevelopment, or neglect. Through our work with property owners, elected officials, government agencies, neighborhood leaders, and the public, we educate, evaluate, and create informed solutions for preserving the places that matter most to Nashville. Historic Nashville, Inc. has served as Nashville’s local preservation nonprofit organization since 1968. We are volunteer-led and supported by membership, donations, and our conservation easement program. For more information on our programs and ways to support HNI, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. JohnEtta Hayes House, 2519 W. Heiman Street
Hayes and other women organized and led walks with families who were desegregating Nashville schools in 1957. She then became very active in the Civil Rights Movement by marching and participating in the sit-ins. Hayes became the first elected female president of the Nashville chapter of the NAACP. She was appointed to serve on a committee that advised President Johnson before his historic signing of the Civil Rights Bill.
This charming but neglected c. 1930 stone bungalow near Tennessee State University sits boarded up and flanked by newly subdivided lots that will soon be developed. Houses in the surrounding neighborhood are being refurbished and there isn’t yet a lot of teardown activity, but the vacant Hayes House is in dire condition. The inside has been taken down to the studs, windows are broken out, and the yard is littered with trash. This house is in critical condition and the property is currently for sale.
2. J.W. Frierson Building, 1310 Jefferson Street
The namesake of this building, John Wesley Frierson, was a real estate mogul and church builder. His company headquarters was housed in the eponymous building he constructed in 1954. In his will, Frierson stipulated that the NAACP was to always have an office in the building, where the organization remains to this day. The North Nashville Colored YMCA was temporarily located on the second floor of the building in 1967, while the current Ashland City Highway site was being procured.
As development pressures on Jefferson Street escalate, we want to stay vigilant about protecting the historical treasures along this historic corridor. The Frierson Building could use a few repairs to make it more sustainable and ensure its continued use, such as a new HVAC system (in lieu of window units) and historic window refurbishment, as modern vinyl replacement windows may indicate some conditions issues. Though the Frierson Building reflects an unadorned mid-twentieth-century commercial architectural style, it is still a Civil Rights Movement gem and should be preserved.
3. Adams-Kimball Cemetery, Hillsboro Pike
The Adams-Kimball Cemetery is representative of so many rural Black cemeteries in Davidson County, in that it is on land that is no longer accessible to the families of people buried there and it is hard to find. The site also likely contains numerous unmarked or undocumented burials, evident from fieldstones and depressions throughout the surrounding landscape. For much of Nashville’s history, most of the city’s cemeteries were off-limits to Black people and they were relegated to burying their loved ones wherever they could make space.
The rise of benevolent societies and prominent entrepreneurs such as Preston Taylor and Kossie Gardner, Sr. made cemeteries widely available to Black people, and the use of family burial grounds declined. While rural Black cemeteries often require different preservation approaches from their white counterparts, Nashville’s African American burial grounds need to be better documented so that the history of these individuals, families, and communities can be celebrated and shared with future generations.
4. Frankie Henry House, 93 Maury Street
Frankie Henry was literally pulled into the downtown sit-ins by Diane Nash, who had been attempting to protest at a downtown restaurant but the server assumed she was white. On her way home from tap dancing class, Henry was switching buses downtown when Nash, a stranger, asked her to participate in a restaurant protest. During the sit-in, a white woman burned Henry with a cigarette. Henry was arrested and spent two weeks in jail, causing her to fail out of Tennessee A&I (now TSU). A decade later, she was able to complete college and became a teacher. Henry was one of many young adults at the forefront of the Nashville Student Movement, the nonviolent foot soldiers who endured despicable treatment and precipitated changes that led to Nashville’s role as the first major city to desegregate its public facilities in May 1960.
Henry’s c. 1935 house on Maury Street was built by her father and brother, both stonemasons. It has recently been for sale and HNI fears it could be a prime candidate for tear-down in a rapidly redeveloping neighborhood.
5. Juno Frankie Pierce House, 2702 Meharry Boulevard
Juno Frankie Pierce was an early Black suffragette, leader, and visionary who worked with white women in order to secure all women the right to vote. Pierce was a founder of the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls, president of the Negro Women’s Reconstruction League, founder of the Nashville Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and served on the first Committee of Management of the Blue Triangle League of the YWCA. She was a tireless advocate for civil rights and women’s rights.
This 1940s-era Meharry Boulevard house is one of four places Pierce lived in Nashville. It is the only one still standing. The home was converted into multi-family housing in the way of Nashville twenty years ago—evident in a series of strange additions and precarious exterior stairs. It has a large corner lot, and there are many new homes replacing tear-downs in the neighborhood. There’s currently nothing to indicate the significance of the house and it could easily be lost.
6. Reagon-Leonard House, 716 26th Avenue North
This was the childhood home of Freedom Riders Joy Reagon and her brother, Cordell Hull Reagon. Joy married fellow Freedom Rider Frederick Leonard and they lived in the house together from their wedding until they moved to Detroit. Cordell Hull Reagon was encouraged by Pete Seeger to use his beautiful singing voice for the Movement and Reagon founded the quartet, the Freedom Singers, which included his first wife, Bernice Johnson Reagon. The house stayed in the family until 2000, when Joy and Cordell’s mother passed away.
The house appears to be well cared for, but it is a small one-family home on a street where its neighbors are either the row of new townhomes across the way or the ultra-modern, high-six-figure four-square a few houses down. There is nothing on-site indicating the significance of this house and some visible alterations might make its preservation more challenging.
7. R&R Liquors, 1043 Jefferson Street
Starting in 1938 and continuing through the 1960s, The Negro Motorist Green Book acted as a critical resource for African Americans who were traveling in the South. This slim volume listed places where African Americans could safely find food and lodging on their journeys through towns where they otherwise might be in grave danger if they entered the wrong establishment. The c. 1961 R&R Liquors store was one such local safe haven, in addition to others sited along Jefferson Street and in other parts of town.
The cool, retro R&R sign has recently been removed, but the mid-twentieth-century building with the distinctive precast concrete channel roof is still standing. Like other historical buildings along Jefferson Street, R&R Liquors is threatened by development pressures.
8. Dr. Fred Goldner Office, 1816 Hayes Street
Dr. Goldner was a prominent Jewish Vanderbilt physician and medical school faculty member who was deeply troubled by the effects of racism and segregation on his patients and community. He and his wife participated in the downtown lunch counter sit-ins and he was one of the first physicians to integrate his waiting room. Dr. Goldner was a member of The Temple, where he chaired its Social Justice committee, and served on the board of the Gordon Jewish Community Center (JCC). As a young doctor, he lived through the 1958 bombing of the JCC and he would have been heavily influenced by Rabbi William B. Silverman’s encouragement of his congregation’s commitment to social justice. Dr. Goldner’s c. 1955 Mid-century Modern office has recently been for sale and stands in an area teeming with cranes as new fast-paced and large-scale development creeps into this Midtown neighborhood. As both a prime example of Nashville’s quickly vanishing inner-city mid-century architecture and an important site tied to local civil rights history, the Dr. Fred Goldner Office deserves to be recognized and preserved.
9. Previously Listed Sites Still in Limbo, the Hubbard House and the Looby House
We have two important sites that have made the Nashville Nine before and are still sitting in limbo. People are still trying to figure out who has decision making power over Civil Rights attorney Z. Alexander Looby’s house (2020 Nashville Nine), which must be determined before preservation efforts can begin. Meanwhile, the property is becoming overgrown with bushes, the grass has not been cut in some time, and someone has attached a parking sign to the front of the house. The Friends of Hubbard House are struggling with how to fund the preservation of that important site, still, and the conditions have not changed much since the house was listed as a Nashville Nine property in 2016. We call on Nashville to push harder to find ways to ensure these properties are preserved.