There is not a one-size-fits-all, singular approach to preservation advocacy. The appropriate strategy should be developed on a case-by-case basis, with the historic resource at the forefront of advocacy planning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Within Williamson County, there is an ongoing effort to preserve a local historic property called Beechwood Hall. The property gained notoriety due to being formerly owned by musicians Hank Williams, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Many concerned citizens are rallying to show their passion for the historic significance of this property and encourage its preservation due to the home’s deterioration over the last four decades.
Williamson County has a robust culture for stewarding historic and cultural resources and valuing historic preservation. Over the last five decades, many people in our community have worked together toward these goals and the common good, creating momentum that galvanized and established the Heritage Foundation to save places and share our richly diverse stories.
The Heritage Foundation agrees with the underlining goal of the Beechwood Hall movement: to retain a beloved and historic property. However, our approach to preservation advocacy is decidedly different than some local outlets and organizers, and we would like to use this page to describe our process, which is in cooperation with the Tennessee Historical Commission and is a best practice for many historic preservation experts.
Heritage Foundation Preservation Practices FAQs
We believe in working in good faith and in a spirit of collaboration with property owners to have respectful and frank discussions about the historical significance of their property, its current condition, and to make them fully aware of the resources available to them (historic or architectural consultants, grants, tax incentives, etc.) that make preserving historic properties a realistic endeavor.
Our organization has over 55 years of experience linking property owners to information and counsel; so, they have all the facts available to them as they steward their property. We facilitate, network, connect, advise, and cast a vision for the value of preserving historic places and their stories so they may continue to contribute to the fabric of our community.
This collaborative approach yields the best outcomes. Solutions-based negotiations that are entered into with the goal of securing a win/win for all parties are much more fruitful than those with confrontation or threats.
One-on-one dialogue is always the best starting point and strongest avenue to affect change. However, rallying the public can be a useful tool in persuasion, when appropriate.
If the matter involves corporations, utilities, or government entities, public petitioning may be the only recourse if all other direct dialogues have fallen apart. These types of organizations and their property decisions can have significant influence on the broader community versus an individual property owner.
Public petitioning does have risks associated with it, including the termination of a willingness to collaborate, alienating property owners, and inciting lasting division or rancor.
If public petitioning and advocacy is deemed as the next course of action, we firmly believe the platform should always be rooted in facts and conducted with civility. Also, the efforts should be focused on both the short-term and long-term benefits of the historic resource and the broader community.
Conversely, if the matter involves private property owners as individuals, our stance is that public petitioning is rarely appropriate, and bullying is never acceptable.
We work tirelessly in a collaborative manner directly with corporations, utilities, government entities, and individuals to affect positive preservation outcomes, but ultimately, we respect property rights that are protected by the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.
Beechwood Hall FAQs
The Heritage Foundation has been fully engaged in preservation efforts since learning about the risk to the home in late October 2022.
- We have not only visited the site, but made immediate recommendations to protect the home from further damage caused by the elements, better positioning it for preservation.
- We have been in direct contact, in a collaborative and positive manner, with Beechwood Hall’s owners to chart the best path forward in exploring preservation solutions.
- The Heritage Foundation is bringing forth the full might of its resources, working with leading partners in architecture and preservation to deliver a comprehensive preservation plan to the owners in the coming weeks.
As of now, there are no current plans to demolish Beechwood Hall. In a statement on Nov. 17, the owners said, “In our effort to best preserve the historical character of the structure and the property, we are happily working closely with the CEO of the Heritage Foundation Bari Beasley and her team to look at all potential options for the property. … There is no scheduled demolition.”
Prior to the Heritage Foundation’s involvement, demolition of the home was one of many possibilities the homeowner was considering, due to the building’s deteriorated condition. In late October 2022, two different courses of action began related to the preservation efforts of Beechwood Hall:
- The Heritage Foundation visited the home with permission from the owners, and we gathered research and information to evaluate the home’s potential for restoration and rehabilitation. Since the homeowners were and still are deliberating as to what to do with the property, the Foundation offered to secure the home from the elements and to build a comprehensive preservation plan for their consideration. The owners appreciated this solutions-driven approach and accepted these offerings. Since then, the owners have been working directly with the Foundation, allowing it to bring forth the full might of its resource to propose an actionable preservation plan early in the new year.
- Conversely, the owners of Beechwood Hall say that they were approached by a different group of concerned citizens with an ultimatum. Without a collaborative or productive process nor any solutions offered by the group, the owners declined to enter into any agreement with this party, which then sparked unproductive rumors and a sensationalized social media campaign. This group does not have a seat at the table with the property owners and, therefore, have no productive pathway to saving this historic resource.
The home was greatly neglected for many years in advance of the current owners. When the current owners took over in 2021, they did take important steps to slow its decline, including boarding it up, stabilizing it, removing a thicket of vines covering the east side of the house, etc.
The addition that was removed was built in the 1970s and had no historical significance. Due to damage and neglect, it was in poor condition and deemed unsalvageable. It is important to note, that before the current owners, Beechwood Hall was neglected for many years by previous property owners.
In a statement on Nov. 17, the owners said, “We were informed that the stair banister within the home is one of the original parts of the house not yet impacted by heavy water damage and mold, and it was carefully removed and is now stored in a safe, conditioned space.” The owners state that most of staircase is still there, with the banister and pickets being the only elements removed.
The owners cleaned up dead trees and replaced the old perimeter fence. Those are the only items in the burn pile. No historical items were placed in the burn pile.
When the Heritage Foundation began its involvement with the property owners, we immediately moved to winterize and secure the home to further protect it from the elements.
Signs and petitions exhibit concern, but when they target individuals who are private property owners, these efforts are unproductive in building goodwill and are certainly unenforceable. The Heritage Foundation is the only preservation organization in direct discussions with the property owners who will determine the future of this property. As such, we will not engage in rumor or hearsay, and encourage all citizens to consider the source of the information they receive. Our official channels of information for Beechwood Hall news are our social media platforms, website, and e-newsletter.
Additionally, another way to get informed and involved in the process of historic preservation advocacy is to attend a FREE PRESERVATION ADVOCACY WORKSHOP at The Franklin Theatre on January 17, 2023 at 6 p.m. Led by the Heritage Foundation’s President and CEO Bari Beasley and Senior Director of Preservation, Education, and Advocacy Rachael Finch, this event will share key touchpoints for pursuing grassroots preservation advocacy, community engagement, and best practices for keeping perspectives realistic while inspiring collaborative preservation work in our community.
The Heritage Foundation’s Sites to Save list is a grassroots advocacy program for the community to come alongside our efforts to raise awareness of Williamson County’s significant historic, cultural, geographical and archaeological resources (including homes, buildings, structures, cemeteries, historic districts, archaeological sites, natural and cultural landscapes).
The listed sites are nominated by community members and voted on by the community. No one from Williamson County nominated Beechwood Hall. With so many historic and cultural resources in the county that can be nominated annually, the Heritage Foundation appointed an outside preservation committee, with representatives from across Williamson County, who review the nominations annually and select the sites chosen each year.
Like many residents of and landowners in Williamson County, the owners made a one-time donation to the Heritage Foundation in 2019, well before they purchased Beechwood Hall in June, 2021. They are not current donors of the Heritage Foundation.
The Heritage Foundation is a leader in the preservation space because of generous donors who are committed to our cause. Donations fuel our ability to lead imperative preservation efforts and never ever influence preservation decisions in any way — any suggestion otherwise is demonstrably false and inflammatory.
The Heritage Foundation has a 55-year track record of preservation success. A commitment to historic preservation from downtown Franklin and throughout Williamson County is what makes our community special. It is the fundamental charge of our Foundation. We understand the deeply technical collaboration and earnest conversations necessary to work to ensure preservation.
You can review our long history of success here.
Because of our track record of success and collaborative approach with the owners, the Heritage Foundation is the only organization in current negotiations with the owners, and the only organization with the resources and commitment to best position Beechwood Hall for preservation.
The Heritage Foundation’s in-house preservation experts are spearheading a team of specialists from the preservation field. One of the reasons we are successful is in part due to our deep network of top professionals and organizations that we work closely with to advance preservation concerns. In our all-encompassing efforts to present the best possible plan to Beechwood Hall owners, we are actively engaged with the Tennessee Historical Commission among others.
We do not know, as the home is privately owned. Our hope in engaging with the owners of Beechwood Hall is:
- To contribute to their understanding of the history of the land, the building, and those who built and used it.
- To provide them with perspectives and resources for consideration on the future stewardship of this historic resource.
As with any privately-owned property, the owners have legal rights to manage the property at their discretion as allowed by law. We believe that providing input as associates as opposed to adversaries is the proper path for the Heritage Foundation to work toward positive outcomes.
General Preservation FAQs
According to the Heritage Foundation’s partner, the Tennessee Historical Commission, “The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's list of cultural resources considered worthy of preservation. In Tennessee, the staff of the Tennessee Historical Commission administers this program in coordination with the National Park Service.
There are thousands of entries in the National Register from Tennessee. Every county in the state has at least one entry. Types of properties listed in Tennessee include homes, businesses, schools, bridges, cemeteries, churches, boats, archaeological sites, and historic districts with many properties. Listed properties have importance in history, architecture, or archaeology.”
A few benefits of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places include building community pride in the history and culture of a community and elevating its built environment. Listing historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places documents local history and culture and can serve as an educational tool to help a community understand its history, act as a planning tool for potential rehabilitation, and guide future stewardship.
Listing on the National Register of Historic Places alone does not place restrictions on a private property owner, nor does it necessarily preserve a property in the future. Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places does not require any consent from any government entity to consider demolition of the property, alterations to the property, or de-listing from the National Register of Historic Places by a private property owner. Listing does not require the owner to provide public access to the property, and will not restrict the rights of private property owners in the use, development, or sale of their property, nor will it lead automatically to the creation of a regulated historic district.
There is not a historic overlay over Beechwood Hall. To learn about Williamson County government’s plans for preserving historic and natural resources, please view their 2040 Comprehensive Plan here.
There are currently historic overlays within the cities of Franklin, Fairview, and Nolensville. In addition to these three municipalities, the cities of Brentwood, Thompson's Station, and Spring Hill have historic commissions and planning commissions that monitor historic and cultural resources in their jurisdiction. The Heritage Foundation has representatives from all these entities that comprise our Preservation Advocacy Committee.
It is our understanding from the November 14, 2022 County Commission meeting that a task force may be formed by the County Mayor’s office to discuss the potential for establishing a historic overlay to protect historic and cultural resources. We fully support the County Mayor’s office and the County Commission in the creation of a task force to explore this option and look forward to contributing to that conversation.
The Heritage Foundation recently met with Mayor Rogers Anderson and we expressed our interest in beginning dialogue with the Planning Department to advocate for a 90-day demolition permitting process. With a 90-day demolition permitting process in place, the Heritage Foundation would have the opportunity to work directly with the property owner to ensure historic and/or cultural resources would have full consideration before any demolition would take place.
A preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that protects a significant historic or cultural resource. It provides assurance to the owner of the resource that the property's intrinsic value will be preserved through subsequent ownership.
Any property owner can establish an easement for their property at any time. They are flexible tools that can be crafted to address specific characteristics of a historic or cultural resource, the property owner’s interest, as well as the mission of the easement-holding organization.
When a historic property is not under the jurisdiction of a historic overlay within a local historic district, an easement offers more applicability and strength and may be the only legally binding option to protect a historic or cultural resource from demolition or significant alteration.
In the history of Beechwood Hall, no easement was ever created by any owner.
We strongly support protecting historic and cultural resources perpetually through the use of preservation easements.
The right to own and control private property is protected by the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. In the United States Constitution, it is within the Bill of Rights, specifically the fourth and fifth amendments, that the government cannot take or interfere with private property without due process and without providing fair compensation for the loss to the owner.
Americans have long esteemed private property rights and economic advancement. Well before the formal creation of the United States, the colonists enjoyed widespread ownership of land, a free market economy, and the ability to enter into private contracts. Historically, colonists were forced to quarter British soldiers in their homes during the American Revolutionary War. Because of this, the framers of the United States Constitution treated private property rights as a foundation of a free society.
While municipal governments can institute historic overlays, the statute requiring such action requires that it is necessary to protect a legitimate public interest and is not applied casually.
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