In 1967, one of Franklin’s best-known, most architecturally significant antebellum homes was torn down to make way for a gas station. The loss of that prominent home at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bridge Street, built by landowner Nicholas Perkins, outraged a small group of determined citizens who formed the Heritage Foundation to preserve the county’s historical resources and agrarian roots.
The first organizational meeting of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County was held on March 7, 1967. Its founders were some of the most well-known citizens in the community: James H. Armistead Sr., John Beasley, Sue Douglas Berry, Billy Billington, Duncan Callicott, Stewart Campbell Sr., Mrs. James H. Campbell, Henry Goodpasture, Judge Frank Gray Jr., Mrs. George Harris, Mrs. Willis Hayes, Judge John Henderson, Mrs. William King, J.N.W. Lee III, Mrs. Livingfield More, Glen Noble, Paul Ogilvie and James Watkins.
This group established the mission “to conserve the best of the past and to plan for the benefit of the future.” Members attended National Trust conferences, visited historic towns, and brought back what they learned. They realized that to make historic preservation meaningful it had to be done in the context of the whole community with attention to preserving the historic heritage of all its citizens.
Another major change took place on November 25, 1998, when the Heritage Foundation merged with the Downtown Franklin Association, which had been created in 1982 to promote the continued viability of Franklin’s central business district. As a unified force, the Heritage Foundation and the DFA are better equipped to preserve Franklin’s rich past while ensuring an equally promising future.
Saving the Franklin Theatre and the Big House for Historic Preservation (the Old, Old Jail) are two of the Heritage Foundation’s signature projects.
A Legacy of Preservation
Monday through Friday from 2 – 4 p.m., we offer tours of our office, The LeHew Magid Big House for Historic Preservation, also known as the Old Old Jail. For more information about our office or our tours, please call (615) 591-8500.
"Historic preservation IS economic development, and no one preserves our history and serves as the caretaker of our unique character like the Heritage Foundation. Access to talent drives economic development decisions, and talent is attracted to Williamson County because of the great work of the Heritage Foundation and their commitment to preserving our historic sites and buildings. Along with our great schools, I credit the Heritage Foundation as one of the primary reasons for our recent economic prosperity."
Matt Largen, CEO of Williamson, Inc.
"The Heritage Foundation makes an invaluable contribution to life and community in Williamson County through its determined commitment to protect the best of the past as a foundation for the future. Through its many partnerships it also has contributed mightily to economic growth and opportunity by supporting scores of adaptive reuse projects, finding new lives for properties across the county, and through heritage and cultural tourism."
Carroll Van West, PhD Tennessee State Historian and Director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation
"Thanks to many who laid the groundwork for the Heritage Foundation 50 years ago, Franklin stands out as one of the nation’s top communities today by several measures. It has been a living laboratory for decades proving a preservation ethic makes sense economically. The accomplishments include a thriving downtown, beautifully preserved landscapes, enhanced quality of the more recently built environment, and lots of great stories. There used to be significant conflict between pro-growth versus pro-preservation, but I think the Heritage Foundation finally helped to bridge that gap. There’s a lot of new mixed in with the old, and most of it gets along together just fine. It’s a never-ending process, and not perfect, but the hard work paid off."
Nancy Williams, Tennessee Main Street Program Director
"One of the greatest tourism draws to Williamson County is the Great American Main Street that runs through the heart of Franklin. Without the Heritage Foundation’s early vision to preserve the multitude of historical gems lining Main Street, the lure for visitors to our area would be a fraction of what it is now. The Heritage Foundation’s commitment to preserving Main Street and the historic homes and buildings across Williamson County allow visitors to get a true glimpse of how we’ve preserved and embraced our past while advancing into the future."
Ellie Westman Chin, Former President and CEO of Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau
"Franklin and Williamson County enjoy a quality of life grounded in the commitment to protecting the places that make this area unique. But this nationally renowned historic preservation success story did not happen by chance. Over 50 years ago the Heritage Foundation was established by farsighted citizens who recognized the inherent value of their community. A half-century later, this outstanding organization continues to lead by taking an active role to ensure that treasured landmarks, neighborhoods, and landscapes are saved for the enrichment of present and future generations."
E. Patrick McIntyre, Jr. Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, Tennessee Historical Commission
"The impact of The Heritage Foundation over the past 50 years permanently changed our community for the better. Initially, its motivation was to preserve our historic buildings and landmarks, but over time, its efforts preserved the sense of place all of us enjoy today. The Heritage Foundation led the way in developing a civic culture that places a very high value on historic preservation. Our children and grandchildren will be the beneficiaries of this work."