The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County, a not-for-profit historic preservation organization, has completed the purchase of Franklin’s “Old, Old Jail” building on Bridge Street.
A unique opportunity was created when FirstBank approached the City to rehabilitate the former Post Office at Five Points, where the Heritage Foundation offices had been located for more than a decade. The Foundation’s Board of Directors was excited to learn that both the City and FirstBank understood the importance of keeping a postal service in this historic location. Everyone involved understood that this could be an opportunity to save another neglected iconic building in Franklin—the Old, Old Jail.
The ca. 1941 structure was originally the Williamson County Jail, but the City of Franklin acquired it in approximately 2005 as part of a land swap. The City sold the building to the Heritage Foundation for $25,000 which was donated by FirstBank. The Foundation expects to invest approximately $1.5 million restoring the building to serve as their headquarters, and as a public resource for those interested in historic preservation. Street Dixon Rick is serving as the architect, and Rock City Construction is the contractor.
“Our goal is to have gained the necessary regulatory approvals and to have the construction documents prepared by the end of the year. We’d like to begin the restoration project as soon as funds are raised,” said Heritage Foundation President Cyril Stewart. “The environmental studies have been conducted, and there were no significant implications for the site. Inside, our first objective is lead paint and mold abatement.”
The Old, Old Jail served Franklin and Williamson County for more than three decades. From the 1970s on, it was used at various times as a Highway Patrol outpost, an employment office, the County archives, and book storage for the school system. It fell into disrepair and has been vacant since 2008.
“Our vision is for this project to help spark the revitalization of the Bridge Street district,” said Franklin Mayor Ken Moore. “The Heritage Foundation’s track record with bringing historic treasures back to life – most recently with the Franklin Theatre – made them the perfect buyer for what was surplus property and an eyesore. This is a win-win for Franklin.”
Stewart says that this is an important milestone for the Heritage Foundation, which has rented office space in and around downtown for years.
“It’s an opportunity to own our own home, a permanent headquarters in downtown Franklin,” he said. “We’ve already begun the initial fundraising plans, and our vision is for this building to be a resource for the community, a place where anyone with a need for or an interest in historic preservation is welcome.”
In addition to the Foundation’s headquarters, it will also feature a vast archive of old photographs collected by Historian Rick Warwick, who has helped countless people learn more about their family and property histories over the years. Stewart says the Foundation helps home and building owners with everything from National Register of Historic Places nominations to Franklin’s Main Street program.
A meeting room will be available for non-profit and community use on the upper floor. Other resources for those involved in history, preservation and planning will be available to the public.
Since 1968, 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. To learn more, visit www.historicfranklin.com.