Franklin preservationists push for old gym demolition


Franklin preservationists push for old gym demolition

Adjacent to the stately Civil War-era Carter House on Columbia Avenue sits another piece of Franklin’s history in a state of disrepair.

The dilapidated gymnasium – a relic from the “old Franklin High School” – has been standing for 60 years, surviving the fire that destroyed the rest of the school in January 1956.

It has been State of Tennessee property for nearly 10 years after a 2007 land swap with the county for a neighboring property.

Now, vacant since the state took ownership, glass and rubble litter the gym floor, paint chips off the walls and signs of its past use as the Franklin-Williamson County Boys and Girls Club remain.

Considered to be both an irreparable eyesore and liability, local preservation groups and Franklin City government now hope 2015 is the year the General Assembly budgets for the gym’s demolition.

“We’ve talked about it with the state for several years, and it’s just a very slow process,” said Marianne Schroer, who sits on the board of Franklin’s Charge.

“Financially, it would be a cost to the state if they maintain ownership. There was probably a point I would have said we’d step up, but we’re past that point. I don’t think anyone disagrees it needs to come down.”

Franklin’s Charge is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving historic Civil War battlefields in Williamson County. Once the gymnasium is torn down, the plan is to restore the property as green space that adjoins with the Carter Hill Battlefield Park.

The Battle of Franklin Trust is another organization advocating for the gym’s demolition. Trust CEO and historian Eric Jacobson said if the state appropriates the necessary funds this legislative session, demolition could start by July 1.

“We’ve never made a request for demolition of anything, but our concern right now is the obvious preservation component,” Jacobson said.

“It’s next to the Carter House, it’s on the battlefield, and as you can see, it’s a liability, a magnet for problems. And it’s really become a blight, vacant for almost a decade, and our plan is to have it be open space, green space, to extend the battlefield park.”

Last year, the Battle of Franklin Trust and Franklin’s Charge signed a contract to acquire and preserve a 1.6-acre tract of land south of the Carter House known as the Lovell property.

The groups resolved to by May 31, 2015, raise $150,000 of the $2.8 million needed to purchase the property, which is where the Carter family kept its garden before the 1864 Battle of Franklin. If purchased, the land will join a larger, 20-acre green space plan.

The gym’s demolition is an integral piece of the battlefield’s preservation.

State House Rep. Charles Sargent, who represents Franklin, is working to advance the project, which is estimated to be in the $200,000-$250,000 range. The state is in talks now with the Department of General Services in the hopes that the gym’s removal can be accomplished this year.

“I think we’re in a very good place right now to see the demolition accomplished, and I think it’s admirable the way the preservation groups, city and state are working together to all do their part to make it happen,” Schroer said.

Jessica Pace covers Williamson County, Williamson County Schools and the Town of Nolensville for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at jess@brentwoodhomepage.com or follow her on Twitter @Jess_NHP.

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