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, September 15, 2013

Creating Places: Traditional architecture in the spotlight

We've seen this countless times. Nashville is losing another vintage gem, as demolition began last week on the three-story apartment building located at 2305 Elliston Place. With the brick-and-stone structure soon to be no more, the list of tasteful pre-World War II-constructed buildings that have met the wrecking ball since the late 1990s (the rough start of the urban infill boom in Nashville) grows. Other fallen jewels the past 15 years or so  include, among others, The Jacksonian, the Masonic Lodge on Broadway (at the site of the proposed West End Summit), the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ, Saint Ann's Episcopal Church (due to the 1998 tornado), The Maberta, the row of commercial buildings in Hillsboro Village, the little masonry buildings on Church Street (across from the Y), a church in Waverly-Belmont near Zanies (I forget the name), the Hathcock Building on Ninth, a terra cotta beauty at Third and Church and the former home of Mario's. There have been many others but memory is bad and, regardless, forgetting such losses is good for my blood pressure.

Given Nashville doesn't have much old-school built fabric (single-family homes notwithstanding) to begin with, I am more than comfortable with the city's having landed some new buildings that replicate the traditional model. I acknowledged that purists would argue a 21st century building should show a contemporary design aesthetic and, generally speaking, I agree. But because this city has gone berserk since the 1960s razing hundreds of beautiful old buildings, I can both live with and advocate the introduction of "replica" buildings. On that theme, here is a list of my favorites "neo-traditional" building constructed in Nashville during the past approximately 15 years:

Tier One

Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Main Library
The "New Jacksonian" (on West End Avenue)
Fifth & Garfield in Salemtown
Vanderbilt University College Halls at Kissam (under construction)
Vanderbilt University Commons
Belmont University Raskin Law School Building
Belmont University Wedgewood Academic Center (under construction and fronting Wedgewood)
Belmont University Gordon Inman Health Sciences Building (fronting Wedgewood)
Covenant Presbyterian Church (Green Hills)
The Maxwell in West End Park
The Gordon Wing at University School (at the corner of Edgehill and 19th)

Tier Two

Fourth and Monroe in Germantown (across from City House restaurant)
West End Close (condos on West End Avenue at Craighead)
The Acropolis (located at Avoca and Parthenon in West End Park)
The Astoria  (the limestone building in Bedford Commons in Green Hills)
The brick/stone building in Bedford Commons (with the cupola and home to Oxford Shop)
A.A. Burch Building (fails to address street effectively enough to merit a place in Tier One)
The Southgate in the 3800 block of West End
The Row at 31st (old-school townhomes that, unfortunately, are covered by trees)

Tier Three

Phillips Place (on Long Boulevard in West End Park)
Park 30 (near Centennial Park)
Hassenfeld Library at University School at 21st and Edgehill
Ten Ten on the Row (on 16th Avenue South)
2110, 2112 and 2114 Acklen in Hillsboro Village (also a version on Long in West End Park)
Bell Hillsboro Village (on 21st and sited adjacent to a vintage gem)
The Artie Lee (3102 West End Circle in West End Park)

Planned and should be stellar

Luxus Germantown
2151 Building at 22nd and Acklen
Marriott hotel in Bedford Commons


  1. While the old brick apartment house on Elliston Place was quaint, it was old, rundown and simply occupied far too valuable land for today's booming midtown Nashville. I hope to see it replaced with something along the lines of the attractive Elliston23. I certainly hope the ugly nearby 1960's-era strip shopping center on West End is demolished as part of that block's total redevelopment.

  2. AMous, the building was rundown, no doubt, but had it been updated, it would have been a nice vintage building. Agree on the strip center (though I think that might be from the 1990s)