An update on flood damage to Tennessee's historic sites...

Here's the latest rundown on the flood damage to historic properties in Tennessee from Dr. Carroll Van West, Director of MTSU's Center for Historic Preservation:

General: It is important to note that we do not know in any detail the impact on Tennessee Century Farms nor the Rural African American churches that the Center has surveyed and identified over the years. Hopefully we can find out more in the following week.


  • Grand Ole Opry House (1974)—extensive damage to one of the Nashville’s major modernist landmarks and performance hall with significant historical associations to all realms of American popular music in the late twentieth century. The nearby Acuff Museum also suffered extensive damage to its invaluable collections.
  • 2nd Avenue North and Lower Broadway Historic Districts, Nashville. The buildings were not swept away but the damage to interiors, from mold and water damage, may make some buildings no longer viable businesses, thus threatening significantly their sustainability. Tough economic times may have become impossible. A significant commitment is needed to keep these buildings in use and viable for the future.
  • Residential historic districts (Buena Vista and The Nations). The city has its share of architectural and conservation districts but rarely do these extend into the twentieth century working-class communities that help to define Nashville’s character and emphasize its diversity. Buena Vista and The Nations are two such places, with Buena Vista clearly underscoring the rise of the African American middle class in the mid-twentieth century. In Old Hickory, graduate students also reported some flooding--which part of town is uncertain.
  • Cameron School (basement flooding), Nashville. This New Deal school, designed by noted Nashville architect Henry Hibbs, is listed in the National Register.
  • St. George Episcopal (1949). A real Belle Meade landmark. Damaged but restorable and congregation is at it.
  • Other spaces and landscapes. These special places have suffered significant damage to their infrastructure as well as increased potential for erosion and degradation due to the flood damage. Areas notable for their damage impact are Riverfront Park (completely covered), Bicentennial Mall State Park (where a new exhibit under construction was flooded); the historic stone fence at Belle Meade Plantation was partially demolished; Old City Cemetery was flooded, causing erosion and damage to headstones; and the Nashville greenway system, a major heritage/recreational route, will need extensive repairs.

Middle Tennessee, thus far

  • Franklin battlefield, Williamson County. Efforts to expand and reclaim this battlefield park will be delayed due to the damage caused by the flooding of the Harpeth River. A historic outbuilding on the Carnton section of the battlefield was inundated and partially demolished. Fort Granger at Pinkerton Park was surrounded by flood waters and still inaccessible.
  • Franklin downtown historic districts, Williamson County. The Reconstruction- era Hardbargain neighborhood had flooding around the historic Primitive Baptist church. The commercial district came off fairly well, surprisingly so, but the downtown historic cemeteries suffered heavily from the waters and need to be cleaned, desperately. The Hincheyville neighborhood also had some flooding. Fleming Hall just outside of the downtown had significant flooding damage.
  • Leiper’s Fork historic district, Williamson County. Flooded homes and businesses will threaten the continued historic character of this National Register district. Boyd’s Mill Road, a historic corridor into the village, also suffered considerable damage.
  • Riverside Park, Clarksville, Montgomery. A significant historical and recreational corridor along the river has been covered by water. More assessment in Montgomery County needs to take place.
  • Historic Town Square, Lebanon, Wilson County. The Lebanon square is like downtown Nashville, but the water reached even higher here and the economic base is not nearly as strong as Nashville. The buildings were not swept away but the damage to interiors, from mold and water damage, may make some buildings no longer viable businesses, thus threatening significantly their sustainability. Tough economic times may have become impossible. A significant commitment is needed to keep these buildings in use and viable for the future.
  • Other historic town squares that received flooding but need more assessment of impact are Ashland City, Cheatham County, and Hartsville, Trousdale County.
  • The railroad village of Kingston Springs also needs investigation as does the impact at Johnsonville State Park. From all accounts flooding along the Tennessee was severe, which would impact the lower parts of this National Register-listed Civil War park.
  • Rock Castle and Wynnewood, two Sumner County historic house museums of the nineteenth century experienced significant flooding. I remain concerned about other early 19th and 20th centuries properties along the Cumberland River all the way to Carthage.

West Tennessee, thus far

In general: rural areas and several county seats received much more impact than people realize, due to the focus on the Nashville area.

  • Dyersburg downtown historic district, Dyer County. South Main is a key artery into the downtown business district and it has received high flood waters. Extensive damage in the commercial but also the residential area, which is largely a early 20th century neighborhood. The flood damage to historic farms and churches in the county may be even higher.
  • Camden, Benton County seat, received flooding damage but I have been unable to determine which sections of town were most affected.
  • Millington Naval Air Station, Shelby County. A key chapter of Tennessee’s Cold War history is embodied in the buildings at the air station and most of it suffered significantly from the storm. The CA has several excellent photos of the damage.
  • Jackson, Madison County. It has once again been buffeted by the heavy rains and winds, although damage seems limited in its downtown historic districts. What is worrisome in this huge county is the damage to its many farms, churches, and cemeteries.
  • Tipton County, Haywood County, Lauderdale County, Crockett County, Gibson County: all are in a similar situation. Their county seats did not experience significant damage it appears but the situation in rural sections is not known—and some of those same areas have gotten such little attention from historians and preservationists—there may be needs not yet identified. The impact on the road system is severe—bridges weakened, sections destroyed.
  • Pocahontas, a historic railroad town on the Tennessee-Mississippi line, received a direct hit from a tornado. It has scattered historic buildings within its boundaries, but impact from the storm is unknown.

Other open spaces, historic landscapes that were flooded and may need assistance are:

  • Mound Bottom/narrows of the Harpeth state park
  • The Hermitage grounds and cemetery, Nashville
  • Germantown greenway (contains Fort Germantown), Shelby County
  • Mississippi River corridor and bike trail, Lake, Dyer, Lauderdale, Tipton, Shelby Counties.
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