CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke Appearing at the Franklin Theatre March 7

ChadCNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregracke, elected by CNN viewers for cleaning 7 million tons of trash out of the Mississippi River, is kicking off Keep Tennessee Beautiful month with a public event at the Franklin Theatre March 7. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will be among those participating in the morning event on Franklin’s Main Street.

The public is invited to the breakfast event from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Franklin Theatre for $10 per person.  Tickets are on sale now at for the March 7 event. His appearance is sponsored by Keep Tennessee Beautiful and the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and supported by several additional community groups interested in making the Harpeth River more of a community asset.

“Chad is proof that one person can make a difference. His passion and dedication have motivated countless others, including myself, to get involved. TDOT was proud to join him for the massive clean-up effort on the Mississippi River,” said John Schroer, honorary chairman of the event, former Mayor of Franklin and Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “He is truly a hero, and we thank him for helping us bring positive change to communities across Tennessee.”

Keep Tennessee Beautiful is the primary sponsor of Pregracke’s appearance. March is “Keep Tennessee Beautiful” month and this event will help kick it off, according to KTNB Executive Director Missy Marshall.

“Keep Tennessee Beautiful is looking forward to bringing this international hero to the Franklin Theatre,” Marshall said. “His success can be applied to every other waterway in Tennessee, and we invite anyone interested to come to this presentation and be motivated to join the cause.”

Pregracke received the CNN honor for generating more than 700 clean-up days along the Mississippi River through his nonprofit organization known as Living Lands and Waters. He’s organized more than 70,000 volunteers to pick up 7 million tons of trash, 90% of which has been recycled.

In December 2013, he was nominated and awarded Hero of the Year by CNN viewers over a five-week voting process, but immediately took some of his $250,000 in winnings and dispersed $10,000 each to the other nine finalists for the award. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said that had never happened in the history of the Hero of the Year Award.

Tickets to the event include a light breakfast with doors opening at 7 a.m., and the program is expected to last from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Waste Management is underwriting the complementary breakfast served in the theater lobby and several local organizations, including Franklin Tomorrow, Keep Williamson Beautiful and the Harpeth River Watershed Association, will be in the lobby with information about their efforts and opportunities to get involved.

To purchase tickets to the event, go to

Heritage Foundation Completes Purchase of Old, Old Jail

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

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