Heritage Foundation Plots Objectives For Year; Reflects On 2013

Old Jail by Ben Johnson copy (1).jpgLast month, Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County board and staff members gathered to reflect on the year’s progress and to establish goals for 2014.

The workshop, held at Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant in Maury County, yielded a list of objectives for the organization that will shape the Foundation’s work in the coming year—one of which includes a renewed focus on a Harpeth Riverwalk installation in Historic Downtown Franklin. The group used their time in Columbia to study that city’s new downtown riverwalk, meeting with the city engineer who has spearheaded the project’s construction since 2010.

“This was a really valuable and very productive retreat, one where we were able to celebrate accomplishments and set goals for the new year,” said Mary Pearce, the Heritage Foundation’s executive director. “Facilitating an expanded riverwalk program and building a strong partnership with likeminded organizations is a top aim, and it’s something that’s been discussed in Franklin for years. We plan to lead a renewed focus on it in 2014.”

Pearce says that the Foundation has already had informal conversations with the Harpeth River Watershed Association and Franklin Tomorrow.

The Heritage Foundation—often in conjunction with its division, the Downtown Franklin Association—produces several festivals each year that support the organization’s mission. Pearce says the executive committee routinely evaluates all special events to confirm that each is truly mission-based and generating sustainable revenue.

Based on year-over-year trends, the board also discussed setting up a stronger volunteer leadership and committee system to assist staff in producing the award-winning festivals.

“We’ve continued to grow so much, and for that we are thankful. Between the Franklin Theatre, and our special events and festivals, the Foundation entertained almost a million people in 2012,” Pearce said. “We are always working to inspire the most amazing signature events possible.”

In early 2014, the Foundation will begin building teams for festival and fundraisers. Individuals interested in serving on those teams should email info@historicfranklin.com or call its office at 615-591-8500.

Perhaps the most significant project for the new year was set in motion this summer: finding a permanent home for the non-profit. With the help of FirstBank and the City of Franklin, the Foundation completed the purchase of Franklin’s ca. 1941 Art Deco-style “Old, Old Jail” building on Bridge Street—saving another endangered iconic building in Williamson County. The Foundation expects to invest approximately $1.7 million restoring the building to serve as their headquarters, and as a public resource for those interested in historic preservation.

The “Big House For Historic Preservation” 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. Pearce says the Foundation helps home and building owners with everything from National Register of Historic Places nominations and the Heritage Classroom program to becoming a part of Franklin’s Main Street program.

The accomplishment follows the transformative Franklin Theatre project and is an indicator of the organization’s strength and commitment to its mission.

“Over the course of 45 years, with the support of the community and the hard work of a dedicated staff and countless volunteers, the Heritage Foundation has helped drive a renaissance in Franklin,” said Cyril Stewart, Heritage Foundation board president. “What used to be a best-kept secret with empty stores and tremendous potential has now become a nationally celebrated destination for heritage tourism, and one of the best places to live in the country. The Foundation is proud of its past, present and future leadership role in Franklin’s progress.

“As we approach our first 50 years of service, our challenge now is to envision what challenges, opportunities and accomplishments the next 50 years will see.”

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.