Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Salemtown's Fehr School is nominated for the "Nashville Nine"

Last year after I publicly wondered how Salemtown's historic Fehr School building could be left off the Nashville Nine list of endangered properties, the president of Historic Nashville, Inc encouraged me to nominate it this year. Today I followed his suggestion and here is how I answered their questions:

If this site is endangered, what is the nature of threat?

The Fehr School is currently being used by the Metro Action Commission for government assistance, and there are plans that have been discussed with the Salemtown neighborhood association for renovations and alterations to the 87-year-old building. Under the previous Mayor plans were discussed with the association for selling to private developers. In both cases preservation has not been given priority.

Neighborhood leaders are concerned that drastic renovations or alterations could compromise the historic character and integrity of the building.

What is the historical significance of the site?

Besides being almost 100 years old, the Fehr School building was at the center of the Nashville Movement to desegregate public schools 60 years ago. In September 1957 the building was surrounded by segregationist protesters who formed gauntlets against African American families who walked their children to school to help desegregate Nashville Schools. Fehr School also survived segregationist bomb threats.


Historical research has been archived on the events at Fehr School. A summary of the research can be found at these links:



Is there a community commitment or affinity group for saving the site? Are there long-term goals for the site? Briefly state the goals, if they exist.

Salemtown Neighbors has started a petition to try to leverage historical protections for the building.

What is the threat to this property?

Redevelopment and/or "re-purposing" to reorient the building away from the street and away from its educational context. Tear-down seems more remote, but there is nothing stopping demolition as things stand. Given Nashville's tear-down proclivities, we should do everything possible to shield Fehr against them.

How could the threat be eliminated (more money, change of ownership, education, etc.)?

Historic zoning to protect the facade. Rededicating the building to educational purposes. Re-framing Fehr as a living museum to the Civil Rights Movement.

What effect placement on the endangered list have to this property? Does the property owner support listing?

Few people outside of North Nashville's older African American community and Civil Rights historians know of Fehr School's legacy. Bringing more attention to it will bring more support for preserving it.

Metro Action officials told the Salemtown association at a summer meeting that they supported placing the building on the Historic Registry.

Please join me in spreading the word and maximizing attention on preserving the Fehr School building for the historical treasure that is. It is a monument to one of Nashville's most significant eras.

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