Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment

Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Creating Places: A nice Chattanooga photo

A good friend took this tasteful photo while he was recently visiting Chattanooga. Coolidge Park is in the foreground with some buildings on the North Shore (and along Frazier Avenue) nicely visible. To the left (and in the center of the shot) can be seen some of the lighting fixtures of the John Ross Bridge. I am not disclosing the name of my friend, as he is a reserved and private gentleman who humbly shuns praise and attention.


  1. Chattanooga is a nice little city that has improved a great deal.

    Of Tennessee's major cities, Nashville is far and away the best, most progressive and fastest-growing.

    On the other hand, Memphis seems to be in a serious downward spiral with a lot of crime, dirty streets and a crumbling infrastructure.

    The late travel author John Guenther was once asked to describe the ugliest city in America. His reply was Knoxville, TN.

    1. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

      John Guenther is obviously not a native of Knoxville.

    2. You talk as if all of Memphis is falling down, but I'm not sure that's an informed opinion.

      Crumbling infrastructure? There are cranes all over the airport, several major highway projects underway and massive new rail yards. There are two major manufacturing facilities under construction (Electrolux and Mitsubishi) and a research complex rising at the old medical center.

      Don't forget that Memphis was far bigger than Nashville for much of the 20th Century and therefore has much more old infrastructure and old buildings to repair or replace. It takes time and better economic times than we've seen recently.

      Crime has been bad in Memphis for decades, so that's no indication of a downward spiral. The demographics and culture of its surrounding countryside left it with too many poor, too many rough neighborhoods. If you live in a Nashville ghetto, you're no safer than you'd be in a Memphis ghetto. Conversely, you're in no more danger in Memphis's Laurelwood or River Oaks neighborhoods than in Nashville's Green Hills or Belle Meade.

  2. AMous,

    I was born in Memphis after my parents met there in college and later got married. So I'm biased. But I really like Memphis. It's gritty and authentic and has a much better urban form (gridded streets, sidewalks, buildings up to the sidewalk, etc.) than Nashville. And I love all the vintage building stock Memphis offers. Nashville has the hills and trees and some impressive civic buildings, new architecture and mixed-use districts, but it seems a bit sterile compared to Memphis. Between Chattanooga and Knoxville, I prefer the Noog.


    1. I agree with the first comment about Memphis. It seems to have really gone downhill. We visited there this spring and the downtown skyline looks almost exactly the same as it did 20 years ago. There are a number of large empty buildings (Sterick Bldg and Chisca Hotel) are long abandoned and boarded up. The Pyramid arena has been vacant for years and is to become a Bass Pro Shop of all things! Beale Street downtown is downright tacky and there is a lot of crime after dark--definitely not family friendly at night. We went to Graceland and the entire area around Elvis Presley Blvd was horrible, with tacky businesses, lots of trash and weeds and not at all what we expected. Overall, we were very disappointed in what we saw in Memphis. So glad we live in Nashville!

    2. I agree with WW on Memphis. It's a great, gritty city with alot of spunk. Their downtown is clean, with lots to offer. Definitely their infrastructure is light years ahead of Nashville's. Overton Park area is a state gem and the zoo in Memphis was voted the 3rd best zoo in the nation this year. As a friend from Nashville put it, "Nashville may look good in church on Sunday morning, but Memphis is a hell of alot more fun on a Saturday night!"

      Also agree that Chattanooga is a much better city than bland Knoxville