The 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.
They began with historic buildings. The entire 15-block downtown and three surrounding residential districts were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An education campaign on the importance of historic preservation was initiated, and that spawned the Heritage Classroom program, which brought local history programs and downtown walking tours to area schoolchildren. Attention then turned to Franklin’s historic Main Street, already assured its place on the National Register, but obscured by aluminum siding, competing signs and lackluster businesses. Members visualized a revitalized downtown streetscape complete with buried utility lines, improved streets and sidewalks, landscaping, and access to the gorgeous Victorian brick and architecture hiding behind the facades. In 1990 an ambitious Streetscape project transformed five blocks of Main Street and the public square into the charming retail district we recognize today, gained Franklin national recognition as a historic treasure, and brought Franklin a Great American Main Street Award in 1995.
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.