by Rachael Finch, Senior Director of Preservation and Education
In this fast-paced year, the Heritage Foundation’s blog brought current, relevant, and interesting information from the field. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, sit back, relax, and enjoy our quick recap of this year in preservation and education!
A Little Bit of Everything
2o21 brought us a little bit of everything – in a good way! We continued to pivot in the first half of the year, much like the rest of our county and country, to provide our members and readers with timely and relevant notes from the field, our first ever countywide endangered list Sites to Save, the 10th anniversary of The Franklin Theatre, to our first ever Summer Educator Institute, our 5th annual Preservation Symposium, and so much more! We even spent time on the road speaking at the Williamson County Association of Realtors, the Brentwood Hillsboro Exchange Club, the Downtown Franklin Rotary, the Franklin Civil War Roundtable, Williamson Forward, and spoke at multiple virtual conferences! (For the record, I hope I do not have to write the word “pivot” in a sentence in 2022!) Before we look forward and reveal a sneak peek for 2022, here is a look back on our incredible work in 2021!
We announced the expansion of our Preservation & Education team with Rachael Finch (me) as Senior Director of Preservation & Education and Jill Burgin as Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, joining Blake Wintory, PhD, Director of Preservation. Completing the current line-up, Grace Abernethy consults as our Architectural Conservator, and Amanda Floyd-Hamilton, PhD Candidate with the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU, is completing her residency with our team. We kicked things off our blog with Notes from the Field, detailing a “day in the life of a preservationist.”
There is nothing we love more than advocating for the preservation of Williamson County’s historic resources! Through our advocacy partnership with the Brentwood Historic Commission, we saved the Owen-Primm house. Dating to c1840, with the earliest part of the house dating to c1800, this valued resource tied to Brentwood’s early settlement, African American, Native American, and Civil War history is currently being restored! We know we cannot do this vital work alone. It takes all of us coming together to save our history. Learn more about preservation advocacy and the Owen-Primm house!
Our blog followed a similar arch, harnessing the power of place-based preservation learning. By mid-month, we pivoted our Rick Warwick Lecture Series to Zoom with a special program led by Marquita Reed-Wright, Collections Manager at the National Museum of African American Museum of Music in Nashville!
In March, we launched our newest preservation advocacy initiative, Sites to Save, as our first countywide endangered list. Our blog led us back to fieldwork. This time, we covered “Fieldwork and Fieldstones: Finding Families in Spratt Cemetery, Williamson County” – read here more about this important moment!
In April, we launched our first ever education traveling exhibit, “Hear Our Voices! The Lives and Legacies of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.” This exhibit traveled throughout Williamson County High Schools and was funded in part by a grant through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. We encourage everyone to visit here to remember the lives and legacies of the movement.
We also spent time with private property owners, learning more about the historic places they steward and care for in our county; additionally, we hosted our second lecture series led by Dr. Ashley Bouknight-Claybrooks with the American Association of State and Local History!
May is National Preservation Month! So, we decided to celebrate by taking a look back through our archives and highlighting various projects the Heritage Foundation has been deeply connected to or involved with over the decades through our Leave Your Mark Campaign. We engaged several of our community members to tell us why preservation matters in Williamson County and to “leave your mark” by getting involved in our missional work to save all places and share all stories here! Check out some of our memorable stories here:
We had two particular noteworthy highlights from June: In the beginning of the month, we held our first Summer Educator Institute entitled “Finding Freedom, Building Community” and later, the announcement of our first countywide Sites to Save endangered list!
In July, everything was positively looking up! We held our beloved Main Street Festival, hosted our first ever museum exhibit at The Franklin Theatre, and hosted Williamson County historian Rick Warwick to a standing room only crowd at The Franklin Theatre! Rick always brings his A-game when it comes to speaking about the history and culture of our county.
It was hot and humid, but it did not stop our 10th anniversary celebration of the re-opening of The Franklin Theatre and our 5th annual Preservation Symposium, “Revitalizing Preservation: See History, See Potential, with Danielle De Sol, Executive Director of the Preservation Resource Center New Orleans, and Brent Leggs, Executive Director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and Senior Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as keynote speaker!
Students went back to the classroom and so did our team! Our classroom projects included a property survey of a c1850 house and barn and hosting fellow preservationists from the Montgomery Historical Society from Clarksville, TN!
October is my favorite month! It’s all about everything orange and our most popular festival, PumpkinFest! During the festival, our Jr. Heritage members held their first “Jail & Bail” benefiting a little bit of everything, including preservation & education!
Mandy Floyd-Hamilton took the reins on our blog and wrote about the Lee-Buckner Rosenwald School while Rachael Finch attended the Nolensville Historical Society Tour of Homes!
We met with members of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Nolensville to learn more about their preservation advocacy needs and then attended the deed signing for 264 Natchez Street. This property, listed on our Sites to Save Six at Risk 2021 endangered list, was formally purchased by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County. We are thrilled for one of most valued preservation partners and are excited to work with them as they preserve this remarkable piece of history in the Historic Natchez Neighborhood!
We also located a few “ghosts” at the Perkins-Winstead house, took a field trip to Historic Travellers Rest, surveyed slave dwellings, and virtually hosted our final lecture series with Dr. Colin Woodward!
The weather outside may be frightful, but our team has places to go, including the survey of one of Williamson County’s remote historic farms and outbuildings. Our beloved Town Crier, John Mather, passed away last year. His family and friends, knowing his passion for performing as the Town Crier and Franklin, donated his uniform and bell to the Heritage Foundation. During the Dickens festival, John’s bell will be on displayed at Franklin Grove.
We close out our year with our most time-honored festival, Dickens of A Christmas! Our preservation & education team worked with local actors to create a special interactive take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Perkins-Winstead Mansion on the grounds of Franklin Grove.
Looking forward, we are excited to host our 6th Preservation Symposium in May, our 2nd Summer Educator Institute in June, our Rick Warwick Lecture Series! And…. we are launching new, innovative programming including workshops, virtual field trips, traveling exhibits, and well, before I give it all away, you’ll just have to wait and see!
We are so grateful each of you are members of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and we look forward to a bright and preservation filled 2022!