South of Bethpage, at the junction of Kansas Lane and Mt Zion Road is the Kansas Rosenwald School.
Built in 1923, with few changes since then, the Mt Zion church is keeping care of the school, which operated until c. 1962. The Center for Historic Preservation is working with the church and the community on a preservation plan.
Sneed Acres Farm on Old Smyrna Road in Brentwood has been known to me for about 20 years when Vance Little first emphasized the significance of the farms along the old road and then my graduate student Mary Allison Haynie conducted her county-wide survey of historic rock walls in Williamson County a few years later.
Yesterday, the family invited us to visit the property and to start discussions of its long overdue listing as a Tennessee Century Farm. As Mary Allison had reported the farm has a remarkable set of stone walls dividing the farm from the road but also dividing fields.
The barns are ingenious adaptations of earlier 19th century structures into the almost standardized look of Tennessee barns from the progressive era of the early twentieth century. Presently the farm fields livestock: swine, cattle, horses and rich pastures are everywhere.
The farmhouse too is an ingenious update of Tennessee’s Frontier Revival period in domestic architecture, finished in 1977. The earlier c. 1796 log house is exposed on the inside but the exterior has that more finished contemporary look of the revival.
The family cemetery is among the county’s oldest and contains slave burials and the graves of War of 1812 and Civil War veterans. We are just getting this new Center for Historic Preservation project underway, with the hard work coming this fall but certainly Sneed Acres Farm will be a distinguished addition to the Tennessee Century Farms program.
Few Victorian houses in West Tennessee speak more strongly to their time and place than the Julius Freed House in Trenton.
Listed in the National Register, the house documents the impact of Jewish merchants in the post Civil War South. It even served as a synagogue for the tiny Jewish community in the region.
The house needs our help–repairs are needed at several places–but it needs our embrace more. It is often forgotten or neglected but it really is a jewel.
Two weeks ago, as Hollis Skinner and others introduced me to key heritage resources in Gibson County, we stopped at the Trenton Rosenwald School. Located where the Rosenwald Fund sop ported a new black school in the 1920s, the current building dates to the 1950s and 1960s.
Here is a category of buildings and a period of our history that need greater attention. Only when the end of Jim Crow segregation neared did Tennessee communities give more than lip service to the legal concept of separate but equal. Local African American communities took the new buildings, embraced them as community centers and continued their fight for civil rights. The clock was not going to be stopped or turned back.
The last photo is Dr Rachel Martin, the assistant director of the MTSU Center for historic Preservation speaking at a community gathering in the school gym,
A week ago a group of African Americans in Gibson County gave me the great honor of sharing the historic Mt Zion Church/School. What a great property. There is a sign stating that deed for the land was transferred in 1855.
When the building was actually constructed will be determined by research but whatever that date may be, the significance of this sacred place is clear.
The Gibson County Courthouse, built in 1901, is one of the state’s most distinctive. The creative use of multi-colored bricks mimics High Victorian style as does the short turrets and high cupola. The architect was W. Chamberlin of Knoxville.
By the turn of the century Jim Crow segregation ruled Tennessee’s public spaces as the theory (never a reality) of separate but equal gave inferior, secondary spaces to local African American citizens in the new building. A late 20th century remodeling obscures original interior designs and spaces but it also allowed the building to speak to and serve all residents. The historic building finally became a point of pride for all of the county’s residents.
Bruce High School has served the African American community of Dyersburg and Dyer county for over 100 years. I say forgotten because it is a forgotten place to most Tennesseans. Located on the proverbial other side of the tracks, blocks behind the old city cemetery, this is not a school landmark that you drive by and admire. No you have to search for it–unless you are among the hundreds of still living alumni. You know exactly where it is, and obviously the community with the active help of the city takes excellent care of what’s left.
The present building dates to 1951, the decade when the state finally started to build modern schools for blacks in hopes of delaying integration for another generation.
The community has built an impressive heritage room, decorated in the school’s distinctive black-red colors.
The centerpiece is the historic gym, scene of regional tournaments, community events, concerts, and NAACP meetings, among many other things. It is a grand secular space for the community.
The story of Bruce is powerful, compelling and needs to be heard loudly across Tennessee.