Watch the Old Franklin High Gym fall to the ground


Watch the Old Franklin High Gym fall to the ground

Giant yellow excavators clawed their way into the Franklin High School Old Gym on Thursday morning to make more room on the Carter House historic site.

Giant yellow excavators clawed their way into the Franklin High School Old Gym on Thursday morning to make more room on the Carter House historic site.

Dust danced in the air as two of the four walls came down on the corner of Columbia Avenue and Fowlkes Street. Basketball goals still clung to the inside while heavy machinery yanked at the steel beams and brick. All of it ended it up as a heaping pile of debris.

After initial demolition work, crews hooked cables onto the structure and used the weight of the to help it fall to the ground. Backing up the excavators, the structure wobbled before it collapsed on itself.

As construction crews worked, preservationists were on the other side of the tree line separating the two sites. Together, they celebrated the moment in the backyard of the Carter House, one they said took 20 years to make.

“This is about the future,” Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson said. “I know this building holds some great memories for a lot of people. But what’s happening today is about the future. Yes, it’s obviously about the past. But the past had nearly been lost – the past at involved the Battle of Franklin, and how this town recovered. And how this story is an indelible part of the American story. That’s not the sound of progress. That’s the sound of reclaiming our past.”

Though tearing the nearly 60-year-old gym down has been a process with many different phases. Jacobson said the original plan was to tear down the gym. The morphed into wanting to use the Old Gym into a new location for the Carter House Visitors Center and Museum. Finally after years in limbo, Jacobson suggested they go back to the original plan of tearing down the structure.

From there, architects created a $3.2 million master plan for the site, then made a request for the building’s demolition.

“It became a part of the greater good to look at taking this down and making this part of a larger restored battlefield,” Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick McIntyre said. “Then we will build a visitors center in a way that doesn’t have a visual impact on the property the way that this does.”

Funding for removing the structure came via $500,000 from the state in the 2015-2016 general budget. House District 61 State Rep. Charles Sargent led the effort to secure the funding. Standing to the side on Thursday, he watched crews start to destroy the building. “I am excited,” he said. “It’s nice to see this coming down, and to be able to save this piece of land and get it back to its original state. It’s beautiful asset to Franklin and to tourists. I am always looking for funding for the battlefields, and we are looking for more for whatever we can do for the next phase.”

Sargent said the money not needed for the demolition will stay with the project, so it could be used for the next phase for the creation of the visitors center.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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