"The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from alone which men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living."

G.K. Chesterton
"On St. George Revived,"
All I Survey

History of Nashville

The first known photograph of Nashville is of the public square. this is fitting for it is the public square that is the point of vantage for Nashville's history in three dimensions.

It was with the square that the settlers from North Carolina first began to apply an enduring shape to the land they claimed. That shape was supplied by surveyor Thomas Molloy, who in 1784, before Tennessee was even a state, platted a village of one-acre lots, with four accres reserved for a civic square on the bluffs above the Cumberland River near Fort Nashborough. Molloy laid his lines as a grid running up and down and across hills and valleys with no regard for topography--obvious progenitors of the downtown street pattern of today.

The Plan of Nashville is the first effort to consider the central city in its entirety, develop a community-based vision, and identify design principles. The goals of the Plan of Nashville are threefold.

  1. Establish, through community participation, a long-term vision and core set of design principles that will guide current and future development in Nashville.
  2. Increase public awareness and understanding of the physical environment through community participation in historical research and visioning workshops.
  3. Produce a book and model that serve to record the vision, design principles, and the process that established them.

Downloads & Links

Metro Historical Commission Publications

Footnotes contains two self-guided walking tours of downtown Nashville. The tours point out some of Nashville's most architecturally and historically significant buildings. Whether you take one tour or both, this brochure will provide you with an excellent introduction to Tennessee's historic capital city.

This brochure explores the several names and nicknames that the city has become known by: Nashboro, Nashville, Capital City, Athens of the South, Music City.

Nashville: What's in a name? (2.4 MB)

Additional Historical Resources

Metro Nashville Archives - http://www.nashville.gov/metro_archives/index.html
Tennessee State Library - http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla
Historic Nashville - http://www.historicnashville.com
Nashville Public Library Special Collections - Nashville Room

Recent Projects

A New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville Preview

A New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville

During the Spring 2016 Semester, The Greater Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) requested the fourth year undergraduate Nashville Urban Design Studio to explore a proposal for a “New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville.” The site is on the Cumberland River, just across from Downtown Nashville’s skyline. At the present time, despite its proximate location, it is an industrial wasteland: what urban theorist Alan Berger terms a Drosscape. The site is inherently bounded and constrained by the CSX mainline railroad embankment to the north, the elevated embankment of the I-65 interstate highway to the east, the Woodland Street embankment and extensive football stadium parking lots to the south, and the Cumberland River to the west. Nonetheless, with downtown Nashville’s extraordinary building boom ongoing, with no end in sight, this 55-acre location would seem ripe for urban redevelopment.

Having made proposals to redevelop “Spaghetti Junction” in 2012, once again studio faculty member T. K. Davis provided his students with a street and block urban design plan, asking them to develop the program and design of blocks as urban architecture, providing public spatial definition and spatial activation as places. “Spaghetti Junction” is a comparable size multi-block area aligned with the Eastgate site, but on the immediate other side of the interstate.

Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit

Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit

A continuation of both The Plan of Nashville and Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan, the Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit is an assessment and development scoring tool intended for local and community associations when engaging new development. The Toolkit is comprised of neighborhood and parcel assessment resources, along with a development scorecard based on the 10 Principles of the Plan of Nashville.

Placemaking: Challenges + Opportunities in Metro Nashville Preview

Placemaking: Challenges + Opportunities in Metro Nashville

The Project for Public Spaces, on their organization’s web site, asks “what if we built our communities around places?” They then go on to define Placemaking as “both an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region, Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.  Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.  More than just promoting better urban design, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.”

Each team asked the questions “could the spaces proposed improve pedestrian, bicycle, and street connectivity?  Could they maintain and/or strengthen street and/or bike and pedestrian connections depending on the site?”  The intent was to promote walkable, bike-friendly environments and access to transit, with particular attention to providing connections between the proposed spaces and surrounding neighborhoods.

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