Friday, September 16, 2011

With the Metro Historical Commission on board, the movement to save Fehr School grows and gains momentum

Last June, CM Erica Gilmore expressed her support for Salemtown Neighbor's initiative to save the historic Fehr School building. Respecting Ms. Gilmore's focus on winning re-election, we did not distract her from her campaign once she expressed her support. However, as soon as she won re-election in August, Salemtown officers re-engaged CM Gilmore and she followed up with the Historical Commission about our next steps.

Tim Walker, Executive Director of the Historical Commission, met with neighborhood leaders and CM Gilmore at Fehr a few days before the building was declared one of the "2011 Nashville Nine" endangered buildings by a local preservationist non-profit. Mr. Walker told us that the MHC had been already been interested in preserving the school building for some time because of its age and its place in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. We toured the building looking at the old auditorium and stage long since converted and subdivided into office space. We looked over the foyer with its East Tennessee granite architecture and plaque designating the 1924 construction date and other details. We observed the classrooms and the old hardwood floors.

When we pow-wowed outside after the tour, all present expressed even more excitement about preserving the building than we had before. CM Gilmore committed to working on Metro legislation to get an overlay for the building. She is also contacting State Representative Brenda Gilmore about trying to get state recognition for Fehr, including a bronze plaque outside. Director Walker committed to working with the neighborhood once the legislation begins to move to passage. The neighborhood leaders agreed that we would do everything we can to get association support for the initiative. It will require at least a couple of hundred dollars on our part to fund mailings, newspaper ad, and signs to notify property owners around the school building when the legislation will be up for consideration.

But I was also surprised to learn that another building near the school also owned by Metro Action may be even older, by as much as 75 years, than the Fehr School building itself. Tim Walker said that the Historical Commission was interested in preserving the house across 4th Avenue North from the school building if it dated back to the American Civil War as he believed it might.
Photo credit: Google Maps
We walked over to take a closer look, and Mr. Walker pointed to the limestone foundation and the pattern of bricklaying--contrasting rows of bricks laid end-to-end and side-to-side--as indeed indicating mid-19th century craftsmanship. So, if those indications prove to be true, we will have two buildings that deserve preservation and fortunately both are owned by Metro government, which may make accountability for protecting them easier than if either were privately owned. The only question remaining is whether Salemtown should work to save both the Fehr School building and the house at one time or the school building first as planned.

Right now we need to focus on taking every step necessary, including raising the needed funds to save Fehr School. I consider this to be the most important project Salemtown Neighbors has ever pursued, because of its historical magnitude and the legacy it leaves for our North Nashville community and our city.

1 comment:

  1. Not everything old is good.

    Has anyone determined if that other building has historical or architectual value?

    Congrats on the Fehr building.