History

Our Mission

The Heritage Foundation preserves the communities and cultural heritage of Williamson County. We work with area leaders to continually care for historic spaces, treasured landmarks, and cherished local businesses. In short, we save the places that matter in Williamson County, Tennessee.

Our History

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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.

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Established
in 1967

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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.

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Mary Pearce and Rudy Jordan are both past Executive Directors of the Heritage Foundation.

What We Do

As one of the nation’s most respected historic preservation societies, the Heritage Foundation works tirelessly to save the architectural and cultural resources that make Franklin and Williamson County so unique.

We Work on Three Fronts

Preservation

We preserve by advocating for and raising funds to preserve historic buildings, Civil War sites, green space, and other community resources.

Education

The Heritage Classroom Program brings Williamson County history to more than 3,000 public, private and homeschooled children each year through classroom programs and walking tours of downtown. We also support the efforts of county historian Rick Warwick as he continues to research and document Williamson County’s history as well as educate the public on historic resources.

Events

Local residents enjoy a variety of street festivals and events produced by the Heritage Foundation and its affiliates. Main Street BrewFest, Main Street Festival, the Heritage Ball, Pumpkinfest, Dickens of a Christmas, and the monthly Art Scene bring hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors to historic Franklin’s core each year.

From the Archives: Old, Old Jail Fundraising Video

Testimonials
  • 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
    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
    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
    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
    Ellie Westman Chin 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. 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.
    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.

    Julian Bibb
    Julian Bibb Partner, Stites & Harbison PLLC

2017 Executive Council

  • David Garrett
    David Garrett President
  • Emily Carroll
    Emily Carroll Vice President of Next Generation
  • Sean Carroll
    Sean Carroll Secretary
  • Pam Chandler
    Pam Chandler Vice President of Membership
  • Marianne DeMeyers
    Marianne DeMeyers Vice President of Main Street
  • Josh Denton
    Josh Denton Vice President of Sponsorship & Development
  • Chuck Isaacs
    Chuck Isaacs Vice President of Finance
  • Emily Magid
    Emily Magid Vice President of Preservation
  • Cassie Jones
    Cassie Jones Vice President of Festivals & Events
  • Andy Marshall
    Andy Marshall Vice President of Franklin Theatre

2017 Board Members

  • Danny Anderson
    Danny Anderson
  • Dr. Allen Sills
    Dr. Allen Sills
  • Brian Beathard
    Brian Beathard
  • Donna Douglas
    Donna Douglas
  • Stephanie Farmer
    Stephanie Farmer
  • Kay Heller
    Kay Heller
  • Kevin Herrington
    Kevin Herrington
  • Chris Knopf
    Chris Knopf
  • Ann Johnson
    Ann Johnson
  • Jennifer Parker
    Jennifer Parker
  • Marianne Schroer
    Marianne Schroer
  • Nancy Smith
    Nancy Smith
  • Stuart Tutler
    Stuart Tutler

Next Generation Executive Council

  • Emily Carroll
    Emily Carroll President
  • Catherine Coley
    Catherine Coley Vice President of Marketing & PR
  • Lauren Jordan
    Lauren Jordan Vice President of Events
  • Kate Nash
    Kate Nash Secretary
  • Jessica Reeves
    Jessica Reeves Vice President of Preservation and Philanthropy
  • Tuesday Sligh
    Tuesday Sligh Vice President of Membership Development
  • Sonny Topiwala
    Sonny Topiwala Treasurer

Next Generation Board Members

  • Reid Anderson
    Reid Anderson
  • Abby Benson
    Abby Benson
  • John Berry
    John Berry
  • Taylor Constantine
    Taylor Constantine
  • Jacob Thorington
    Jacob Thorington

STAFF

  • Cindy Brown
    Cindy Brown Festival & Events Coordinator
  • Linda Childs
    Linda Childs Director of Membership
  • Wendy Dunavant
    Wendy Dunavant Director of Finance
  • Annabeth Hayes
    Annabeth Hayes Director of Preservation
  • Dan Hays
    Dan Hays Executive Director, Franklin Theatre
  • Bari Beasley Chief Executive Officer

    Bari Beasley brings more than 15 years of experience in marketing and non-profits to the Heritage Foundation.    Beasley holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in advertising and public relations, both from the University of Alabama. She serves on the boards of the Franklin Theatre, the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Williamson Inc.

  • Lynne McAlister
    Lynne McAlister Director of Sponsorship & Marketing
  • Teryl O’Connor
    Teryl O’Connor Director of Festivals & Events
  • Margie Thessin
    Margie Thessin Heritage Classroom Teacher
  • Kristy Williams
    Kristy Williams Main Street Director

COUNTY HISTORIAN

About Rick
  • Rick Warwick
    Rick Warwick Williamson County Historian

After many years in the classroom and as a school librarian, Rick Warwick now applies his energy to collecting the history of Williamson County. Considering himself a better gleaner of facts and tidbits of history than a writer, he has compiled a shelf of published works on Williamson County over the years. As publication chairman of the Williamson County Historical Society since 1990, he has published the annual journal, as well as projects of his own choosing. This body of work includes: Leiper’s Fork and Surrounding Communities (1999), Leiper’s Fork and Family Albums (2000), Historical Markers of Williamson County-A Pictorial Guide (1999), Williamson County-In Black & White-A Racial History (2000), Williamson County-Out There In The First District (2001), Meet Me At Chapman’s Pie Wagon (2002), Triune-Two Centuries at the Crossroads (2004), Williamson County-More Than A Good Place to Live (2005), Williamson County-The Civil Wars Revealed Through Letters, Diaries and Memoirs (2006), Freedom and Work in the Reconstruction Era: The Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts of Williamson County (2006), Williamson County-Civil War Veterans-Their Reunions and Photographs (2007), Wish You Were Here—A Postcard Tour of Franklin & Williamson County (2007), and Williamson County & the Civil War—As Seen Through the Female Experience (2008), Portraits of Williamson County (2010), Historical Markers of Williamson County, Tennessee Revised (2010).

Rick graduated from Middle Tennessee State University (B.S. 1969 and MAT 1971). He served on the Tennessee Historical Commission from 2005 to 2015. He volunteers as historian for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. In January 2017, the Williamson County Commission appointed him County Historian, replacing Mrs. Virginia McDaniel Bowman, who had served that post since 1972. He has served on the following boards: Heritage Foundation, Carter House, Carnton, African American Heritage Society of Franklin and Williamson Count and Franklin’s Charge.

Since 1975, Rick and his wife Elaine have lived in an 1831 cedar log home reconstructed on Warwick’s Knob off Southall Road. Since moving to Franklin in 1970, Rick has collected locally-made furniture and items related to Williamson County history with noted success. He has collected over 15,000 photographs related to Williamson County.

Previous Executive Directors

  • Debbie Shelton
    Debbie Shelton 1974-1976
  • Edwin Lejeune
    Edwin Lejeune 1976-1978
  • Rudy Jordan
    Rudy Jordan 1978-1986
  • Mary Pearce
    Mary Pearce 1986-2017

ANNUAL REPORT

Check back soon. Our 2017 Annual report will be published in May.

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about us

The Heritage Foundation preserves the communities and cultural heritage of Williamson County. We work with area leaders to continually care for historic spaces, treasured landmarks, and cherished local businesses. In short, we save the places that matter in Williamson County, Tennessee.

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