McNeelys Named Chairs for Tours of Home

A downtown Franklin couple who has been involved in the preservation of a number of National Register homes has been named chairs of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County’s 39th Annual Town & Country Tour of Homes, to be held June 7th and 8th.

“We share time between the mountains of North Carolina and our home on West Main Street in Franklin, and we’ve always enjoyed the romance of an old house that bends and twists,” Sharon McNeely said. “We’ve developed incredible relationships as a result of our living here and working with the Heritage Foundation and wanted to support the Tour of Homes as a spotlight on the importance of historic preservation.”

The McNeelys, who have owned three properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, live in a ca. 1888 Victorian home in Franklin’s Hincheyville Historic District that has been featured on the tour in the past. As one of the Heritage Foundation’s earliest preservation success stories, that house was moved to the current site in the late 1970s. The McNeelys are currently working with the Foundation to relocate the “Cotton Gin” house from the site of the new Carter’s Hill Battlefield Park on Columbia Avenue.

In 2005, they bought their home in downtown Franklin and became seasonal residents. They’re often seen walking around Hincheyville with their rescued greyhound, Keith, and both are avid equestrians.

“Franklin has been a special place to me for a long time, as I grew up coming here because of the horses,” Sharon said. “When I introduced John to downtown Franklin, we both decided it was time to put down roots here. We’ve been welcomed with open arms and always look forward to coming back home.”

Now in its 39th year, the Town & Country Tour of Homes invites the public inside historic homes, buildings and notable examples of sensitive infill within historic districts. This year’s event features 11 properties with a focus on antebellum structures, recognizing the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin.

Pre-1864 locations include the Harris-McEwen House (ca. 1832); The Eaton House (ca. 1816); The Old Williamson County Courthouse (ca. 1858); Landmark Booksellers (ca. 1808); The Saunders-Marshall-Wright Gardens (ca. 1805); The Masonic Lodge (ca. 1823-1826); The Harrison House (ca. 1810-1826); Laurel Hill (ca. 1854) and Rest Haven Cemetery (est. 1855). Other locations include The Roberts-Moore House (ca. 1898) and The Belle House, built in 2014 in Hincheyville by Thrive Homes. Living history presentations will enhance the experience at a number of sites.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, and are good for the weekend of June 7th and 8th. Bob Parks Realty, LLC is the presenting sponsor. To learn more about the Town & Country Tour of Homes or to purchase tickets, please call the Heritage Foundation at (615) 591-8500, x18 or go here.

Since 1967, the not-for-profit Heritage Foundation’s mission has been to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.


Cannons on the Square Campaign

cannons on the sqaure

Today, there are four Civil War era cannon tubes displayed on Franklin’s Public Square.  These original Civil War cannons are mounted on unattractive, inappropriate concrete pedestals that do not do justice to these historic artifacts or add to the aesthetics or character of the best small town in Tennessee.

Volunteers from several Franklin preservation groups have formed a committee with the mission to purchase carriages and mount the four Civil War era guns on the Franklin Square by November 30, 2014: the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin. They have studied various options and determined that the cost to buy and install four National Park-quality reproduction No. 1 Field Carriages is approximately $60,000.

The plan is to apply for grants from the Tennessee Historic Commission, the City of Franklin, and other organizations.  The Committee will still need to raise a substantial portion of the $60,000 from private donors. Save The Franklin Battlefield, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, has offered to receive and hold the donated funds as the project progresses.

These city-owned cannon tubes are original bronze Federal Model 1841 6-Pounder Field Guns, cast in Massachusetts between 1847 and 1861. Two were cast in Springfield by N. P. Ames Founder in 1847; one in Chicopee by Ames Company in 1853; and one in Boston by Cyrus Alger & Company in 1861.

Your generous contribution will ensure these historic guns are protected and mounted appropriately as an honor to those brave soldiers who served during the Civil War. They will also serve as a visible and lasting reminder to future generations of the great struggle that is an important part of our American heritage.

Members of the CANNONS ON THE SQUARE CAMPAIGN committee are: Pam Lewis, Sam Huffman, Dr. Sam Gant, Alderman Mike Skinner and Colonel (Ret) Sam Whitson. For more information or questions, visit the STFB web site at: or call 615.500.6612.

Send your contributions by May 30, 2014 to:


P.O. BOX 851

FRANKLIN, TN 37065-0851


Main Street Festival Returns, April 26-27

The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County’s 31st Annual Main Street Festival, presented by First Tennessee, will return April 26-27, 2014 to Historic Downtown Franklin, Tenn.  The event will feature more than 200 artisans and crafters, three stages for all-day entertainment, two blocks of children’s activities and two food courts.

The free two-day weekend event will run Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the Fourth Avenue street dance continuing until 10 p.m. on Saturday night.  All activities will re-open Sunday, April 27, from noon to 6 p.m.

More than 130,000 visitors are expected to attend the weekend that’s packed with family-oriented activities, non-stop musical entertainment and international flavors provided by the 20-plus food vendors.

Artisans and crafters will be selling handmade work, including original oil and watercolor paintings, pottery, jewelry, furniture, woodworking, ornamental iron, stained glass, photography, home and garden accents, birdhouses, leatherwork and much more.

In addition to a juried arts and crafts show projected to host more than 200 entries, the festival will offer two special areas of children’s activities on Third Avenue South and Third Avenue North.

Patrons will also enjoy live entertainment throughout the two-day event at any of the three stages: the First Tennessee Stage on the Public Square; the Heritage Stage on Fourth Avenue North; and the Beer/Wine Garden Stage on Fourth Avenue South.

Three designated food areas will offer a tasty variety of everything from roasted corn on the cob and stuffed baked potatoes to Polish sausage, Greek gyros and Asian and Mexican cuisines. And don’t forget the Southern fare: barbeque, burgers and hotdogs, smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes, kettle corn and more will be offered.

A shuttle service provided by the Franklin Transit Authority will be available to transport people from the free parking lots at Harlinsdale Park on Franklin Road and at The People’s Church on Murfreesboro Road. Shuttle rides to the event are $1 for adults and 50 cents for children and seniors. Both sites will operate on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Only the Harlinsdale site will operate on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Main Street Festival is presented by First Tennessee with major sponsors Hidden Valley, The Kroger Co., Williamson Medical Center, The Grove, Patterson Company, AT&T U-Verse, Wyndham Resorts, LeafFilter and The City of Franklin. Supporting sponsors include Fox 17, Clear Channel Radio, The Tennessean/Williamson A.M., Franklin Home Page, Schroeder Chiropractic, K-9 Off-leash, Durante Home Exteriors, Summerwinds Resorts and FranklinIs.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and its division, the Downtown Franklin Association, and their missions, respectively: to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of Downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.

The Main Street Festival is located in Historic Downtown Franklin, Tenn., exit No. 65 from I-65, three miles west to the Public Square.

For more information, call 615-591-8500.

Home Fest Celebration Reception (April 12) Honors Descendant of Mariah Reddick

Thelma, Franklin 150 posterThe community is invited to the “Home Fest Celebration Reception” at the Williamson County Library on Columbia Avenue Saturday, April 12 at 2 p.m.

The event–spearheaded by prominent African-American historian Thelma Battle–will host honored guest Damani Keene of the Republic of Panama, the great-grandson of ex-slave Mariah Reddick (1832-1922) and grandson of John Watt Reddick, former railroad mail clerk.

Mariah Reddick was Carrie Winder McGavoc’s slave at Carnton Plantation, and worked in the Confederate hospital under Franklin surgeon Dr. W.M. Gentry.

The “Home Fest” will commence with greetings from Thelma at 2 p.m. and words from Heritage Foundation Historian Rick Warwick, followed by a reception and African-American trolley tour beginning at 3 p.m. The event will begin and end at the library.

The event is sponsored by the African-American Heritage Society, the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County, Franklin’s Charge, Battle of Franklin Trust, Stites and Harbison, and the Downtown Franklin Association.

To learn more about Mariah Reddick, read Rick Warwick’s RAZOR story here.

Lehews Donate $1 Million to Old, Old Jail Initiative

Calvin Lehew speaks to Youth Leadership Franklin at the Franklin Theatre about his preservation work
Calvin Lehew speaks to Youth Leadership Franklin at the Franklin Theatre about his preservation work, prior to announcing his donation

The effort to restore the Old, Old Jail as the Big House for Historic Preservation in Franklin, Tenn., took a big step forward today when local businessman and entrepreneur Calvin Lehew and his wife, Marilyn, announced a $1 million donation to the project.

The donation is the lead gift in the effort to convert the abandoned c. 1941 former Williamson County jail building into a hub for all things preservation and the headquarters for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson Co.  The total restoration budget is $2.59 million.

The announcement was made at the Franklin Theatre as part of Heritage Day for Youth Leadership Franklin.  The twenty high school sophomores and juniors participating in the leadership development program received a close-up look at the inner workings of historic preservation. Each was also given a copy of Lehew’s inspirational book on overcoming adversity, flying high.

“We at the Heritage Foundation are ‘blown away’ by the Lehew’s generosity and commitment to this project,” said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson Co.  “The Lehews have proven themselves to be visionaries and pioneers in both historic preservation and tourism, and much of what we love about historic downtown Franklin is due to their efforts.  It is an honor to have them as members of the Heritage Foundation, and we are grateful beyond words for this extraordinary gift.”

Calvin and Marilyn Lehew began their tourism development efforts more than four decades ago with their Carter’s Court development on Columbia Pike in 1973.  The shopping and restaurant complex across the street from the Carter House put Franklin on the tourism map and went on to become the seventh most-visited attraction in Tennessee.  Next they purchased seven buildings on Main Street in historic Franklin with a goal of revitalizing the downtown district.  Lehew played a leading role in garnering political support and funding for the Streetscape project along Main Street in Franklin in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which resulted in Franklin earning a Great American Main Street award in 1995.

Lehew’s most recent project was the rehabilitation of the 1929 buildings that once housed Dortch Stove Works, Magic Chef and later the Jamison Bedding Company into The Factory at Franklin.  Over a period of years he transformed it into a vibrant shopping, entertainment, artistic, and event complex, selling it in 2012.

“The Old, Old Jail project is one that Marilyn and I support because it both preserves a historic building that deserves a second chance and provides the Heritage Foundation with a great headquarters space,” said Lehew.  “It is located in the corner of town that I would be interested in developing if I were still in the business.  This is the next place in Franklin for redevelopment and the restoration of that building will be a welcome addition to that part of downtown.”

Also announced today was a pledge from the Heritage Foundation’s under-40 membership group, Next Gen, for $100,000 over five years to fund the glass-enclosed addition on the second floor overlooking the green space and eventual bicentennial park behind the building.

“As the next generation of the Heritage Foundation we’re honored to have the opportunity to leave a legacy and support a project that will benefit future generations of residents of Williamson County,” said Sean Carroll, president of the Next Gen. “Our last project, funding the marquee at the restored Franklin Theatre, was a five year project that we were able to pay off in four years.   Given the passion and dedication of our volunteers and members we’re confident that we’ll be able to pay off this pledge in less than five years, too.  It’s a privilege to be able to play such an important role in preserving the history of this amazing community.”

“The Lehews’ generous leadership gift reflects their ability to see into a very bright future and means that their vision has touched all the quadrants of downtown Franklin,” said Cyril Stewart, president of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.  “This gift, plus the commitment of the Next Generation of the Heritage Foundation, enables us to move from planning to construction to realize this transformational project.”

The Old, Old Jail, located at 112 Bridge Street in downtown Franklin, served as Williamson County’s second jail, from 1941 to 1973.  Abandoned in 2003, the building was purchased from the City of Franklin in 2013, when plans began to restore the building into a center for historic preservation in Williamson County.  Rock City Construction is the general contractor for the project, and Street Dixon Rick Architecture, PLC, is the architect.