Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Mystery House At 10th Ave. & Garfield

Can you make out what the cornerstone says?

On Sunday, we wandered around near the Jones Buena Vista neighborhood, which is just northwest of Cheatham Place. Some of the houses along 10th Ave., North there are just as attractive as any in Germantown or Salemtown.

We stopped at the corner of 10th & Garfield near the spot where I-65 crops 10th, because I noticed a large comely building, which looked to be one of the more historic structures in the neighborhood.

I was struck by two things. On one side of the building stands a metal tower with a rusting old school or church bell.

But I was mostly interested in the cornerstone, whose weathered original message has been defaced and then obscured by cement troweled into the letters. Someone sadly intended to mar the words to posterity. I think I have been able to figure out what a good portion of the cornerstone originally read:

[unreadable word] MISSION

I welcome anyone else's interpretation of the whole 1882 message of the stone.

This is what I do know about the building: it currently houses Christ Temple North. I stopped and spoke with some of the parishioners on Sunday after their service. The ones I talked to were not sure how the cornerstone ended up as it did nor what exactly it read. They also told me that the bell pre-dates their congregation and that they do not use it. They also told me that Cofer's Chapel (a Freewill Baptist congregation currently located on Franklin Road) occupied the building before they did.

That last fact is confirmed in John Connelly's book on North Nashville. Connelly reports that Cofer's Chapel moved, after 45 years in the Buena Vista location, to King's Lane and Clarksville Highway in 1952 (which would have made them the occupants since 1907). Connelly also writes that one of the reasons that Cofer's Chapel moved was that the building had not been designed to be a church. Before 1907 it had been "Polk Avenue Day Home," one of Nashville's first homes for children of working mothers (Connelly, p. 154).

I'd like to track down some information that would solve the mystery of the unnamed owners of the Day Nursery, and how that institution served the neighborhood in its day. I went to the Nashville Room in the main library yesterday to look for information on it, but even with the help of the librarian, we could not find anything on "Polk Avenue Day Home," and very little on Cofer's Chapel before its move to Franklin Road. I'm going to have to dig through some turn-of-the-century newsprint and hope I get lucky.

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