Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don't know about the accuracy of the 150-year-old North Capitol history, but the geography is all wrong

Pith in the Wind blogger Betsy Phillips contends that she "solved the mystery" of a 150-year-old photo taken of Civil War soldiers during the Battle of Nashville. She argues that the photo was taken from Capitol Hill facing Germantown and North Nashville, given the current topography:

Well, there's only one place in town where you're going to be on a hill, overlooking a train trestle, and can see Fisk off in the distance — Capitol Hill facing Germantown. Here's a contemporary picture from the TSLA for comparison (though you can't see Fisk, because of the trees, but you can see farther than Fisk, because you can see the highrise on the far side of the river in Bordeaux, thus, if there were no trees, you'd be able to see Fisk.).05042010_flood_16.jpg

The problem with Phillips' theory is that the 2010 photo above could not possibly have captured Fisk in its angle. TSLA's camera orientation is pointed northwest. Fisk lies at an angle farther west of the camera position. A look at screenshot from Google Earth makes that plain:

Click on to enlarge.

The Bordeaux highrise Kelly Miller Smith Tower (not included in the screenshot, but to the left of center in the TSLA photo) lies on a direct line down 10th Ave N., through Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church (whose steeple is clearly seen in the TSLA photo) to Capitol Hill. The farthest straight western line shown in the TSLA photo stops near where Jefferson Street crosses over the interstate, 3 blocks east of the Fisk campus. The Bordeaux highrise Kelly Miller Smith Tower is near Clarksville Highway, which drops down south to become D.B. Todd, Jr. Blvd, which brushes up against Fisk, but that road is not a straight shot between the highrise tower and the university. The road doglegs away from downtown at Clay St. Fisk does not actually sit between Capitol Hill and the Bordeaux highrise Kelly Miller Smith Tower. It sits off to the western side.

By the way, the photo of Fisk that appears on the masthead of my blog was taken from a spot near the intersection of Union and 9th Av. N, not too far from Capitol Hill. The sunset should tell you I am pointing my camera west. Also note that there are leaves on trees, but Fisk's main buildings sit high enough on a hill itself so as not to be blocked from sight. The Jubilee Bridge can also be seen in the masthead to the left of the Memorial Chapel's spire. Again, the theory that the TSLA shot--taken on the northern side of Capitol Hill--includes Fisk does not hold water.

Obviously I cannot speak to the actual location of the 150-year-old photo or the history of North Nashville during the Civil War, but I can say that if Betsy Phillips is operating under the assumption that the 2010 photo includes the Fisk campus, her theory that Capitol Hill is the only place the old photo could have been snapped is itself open to debate.

Whether the history is right, the geography is all wrong.

UPDATE: Based on Mike Peden's comments below and in respect for the legacy of the late Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, I corrected my references to the "Bordeaux highrise" to reflect its proper name.

1 comment:

  1. the Bordeaux highrise is the Kelly Miller Smith Tower. Buildings in Bordeaux have names.
    Kelly Miller Smith was the pastor of First Baptist Church Capitol Hill, and the highrise was built in 1980. It is HUD subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled.