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.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Creating Places: Good-bye, Mr. Hull
This is no prediction. It is, rather, the reality. Indeed, I've had discussions the last few days with folks close to the situation and Hull's future looks grim. The State of Tennessee still must determine what it will cost to raze the clean-lined modernist structure, but the wrecking ball awaits.
Given various factors, it is almost unfathomable that this will happen. This city already has lost too many wonderful buildings. Plus, you would think the state would have properly maintained the structure to avoid its deterioration. The Hull building (see the previous post for an aerial photo) may be no Hume-Fogg High School or Union Station, but it is a very attractive civic building. As important, it comprises a quartet of structures that beautifully frames the grand Tennessee State Capitol. Once Hull is gone, the effect will be much like that of an otherwise attractive person who is missing a tooth.
Placing some phone calls to determine what might happen, I learned that it is all but certain Hull will not be saved so as to house, for example, the Tennessee State Museum. I also learned the state apparently plans to keep the land — with a green space the likely replacement for Hull.
At this point in the post, I could attempt to deliver a pithy comment or barbed zinger lambasting the state. But I'll refrain. I just don't have it in me. Maybe I should not be so upset about something most folks would contend is trivial in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps I should focus my emotional energy upon interests for which I have more control. Some might say I need "to get a life." But my passion for places and place-making began more than 40 years ago and I can't simply ignore this fact. In short, I cherish attractive cities, and stately civic buildings are a key to that attractiveness.
During the past 50 years or so, downtown Nashville has lost so many of its fine-grained historic masonry buildings that what modest charm it still retains is based, in large part, on large-scale civic buildings like those found on Capitol Hill. Raze the Hull Building and not only will the Hill never be the same but another layer of downtown's already limited architectural appeal will be forever stripped away.