The large ivy-covered boulder, so different from other grave markers at Nashville City Cemetery, has excited curiosity for more than 150 years. As the true story was forgotten, romantic tales of love and tragedy, each sadder and less realistic, swirled around “The Rock.”
Did a lover’s quarrel cause a young lady to drown herself in the Cumberland River? Or perhaps a young bride was killed in a carriage on the way to her wedding. In every fanciful variation of this tragic death, the bereaved suitor or husband had the “trysting rock” where the young lovers met brought to her gravesite. The grieving young man allowed no name or date: he knew, and that was enough. One variation said the young lady was afraid of the dark, so a lantern was placed on top. Perhaps there had been an identifying inscription, but it had worn away. No one remembered who was buried under the boulder.
In 1959 a plaque was attached bearing the inscription “Ann Rawlins1 Sanders, 1815-1836.” As shall be shown, this attribution was an error.
Who was Ann Rawlins Sanders? Do her life and death reflect any part of these fanciful stories?
No, they do not. Far from being a suicide or a casualty on her wedding day, Ann was a loved and respected Nashville community member. She was married to Charles H. Sanders by the Reverend William Hume on August 29, 1832, in Nashville, and she attended the First (now Downtown) Presbyterian Church. On April 1, 1836, a local newspaper lamented her death: “A soul of bliss winged its way to mansions on high. Too pure to remain here below, it returned to its maker after a sojourn of twenty-one winters. She was a happy representative of the Church. Her lovely expression was a magnet to the lukewarm and the skeptic.” So there was no scandal or tragedy here, but just the sadness of a young life cut short. The first survey of the City Cemetery, in 1908, labeled the box tomb next to the “Ivy Rock” as belonging to Ann.
If Ann Rawlins Sanders isn’t buried under the Rock, then who, if anyone, is?
Nashville City Cemetery Association researchers have made every effort to read and transcribe, from microfilm, all articles about the history of the cemetery. In 2013 the discovery of one story refuted all the tragic tales. On August 14, 1882, The Daily American let readers know this:
“Some months since, a part of the ivy was cut away on two sides where the inscriptions were said to be. There the rough letters were, but nearly worn away; with care and painstaking they were finally deciphered.
“On the south, the side towards her former home was: ‘Lucy Rawlins Steele / Died May 9, 1847.’
“On the east was carved: ‘1848 / THE DEAD / The only beautiful that change no more.’”
The reporter learned the truth from the City Cemetery Sexton, who remembered that a gentleman named Mr. Steele had had the stone carried to the cemetery a year after his wife’s death. At that time Edward G. Steele was serving as Secretary of the Building Commission for the new State Capitol. For the building construction stone was being cut, by prisoners from the State Penitentiary, at a nearby quarry. According to the Sexton, “Mr. Steele had the stone brought out in a high wagon drawn by eight mules, and six convicts were taken along to aid in unloading it. He then put it there and then spoiled nature by putting that iron on the top, as I told him at the time. But there isn’t any truth in all those romances that young people are so fond of telling and believing about the ivy stone.”
With her name discovered, what more could be found about Lucy’s life? Davidson County marriage records show that Lucy was married to Edward Steele on November 24, 1832, by Reverend William Hume2. She was baptized at Christ Church, the first Episcopal Church in Nashville, on October 13, 1837, and two days later the Steeles’ baby, Albert Wagner Steele, was baptized. Parish records list Lucy’s death in May 1847.
The City Cemetery Interment book shows that Lucy, wife of E. G. Steele, died of consumption and was buried on May 6, 1847. One month after her death, Mr. “Steel” bought Lot 9 in Section 18 where Ann and Lucy are buried. As they have the same maiden name, it is possible they were sisters. The entry, deciphered with difficulty, states that Lucy died May 9, a date which is a few days different from that in the interment book. The name Steel/Steele was variously spelled in 19th century records.
Less than two years after Lucy’s death, Edward G. Steele resigned his position as Secretary of the Building Commission and left Nashville. With his departure, Lucy’s name was lost to memory.
The “Ivy Rock” is now correctly marked. The cast iron ornament placed there by Edward Steele remains, but the lantern, added years later, has been removed. The “Ivy Rock” stands again as the memorial to Lucy Rawlins Steele that her loving husband intended, so many years ago.
1 Ann’s surname, “Rawlins,” is spelled “Rawlings” in several records. Sources have consistently used the spelling “Rawlins” for Lucy’s name.
2 Three months after the marriage of Ann Rawlins and Charles H. Sanders by the same pastor.
One of Nashville’s most popular events is the annual Living History Tour each fall at City Cemetery. Visitors see the past come alive as costumed characters step forward from the gravestones to tell their stories. Although a few beloved personalities from Nashville’s history do reappear from time to time, the Nashville City Cemetery Association (NCCA) selects many new characters each year. The individuals named below were featured in the 2013 Tour. The photos of reenactors were taken during NCCA Living History Tours between 2008 and 2012.
Lipscomb Norvell, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, served under General George Washington at Brandywine, Trenton, and Monmouth. An early pioneer, he raised a large family in Kentucky before joining family members in Nashville, where he died at age 87.
Frank Parrish, a free man of color, was a Nashville entrepreneur, operating a Bathing House and Barber Shop on Deaderick Street. He died in 1867 and was buried in a family plot at City Cemetery.
William Carroll Napierowned a Nashville livery stable. His son James carried Mayor Cheatham to surrender Nashville to Union forces in 1862. Later the two Napiers helped John Berrien Lindsley set up military hospitals around the city by transporting food equipment and supplies. During the Occupation, the Union Army employed Carroll as a spy, tasked with reporting Confederate troop movements in Murfreesboro and along the Harpeth River. Son James C. Napier would later become Nashville’s African American city councilor, as well as Register of the U.S. Treasury under President Taft.
George W. Campbell, one of Nashville’s most distinguished citizens, was an attorney, a U.S. Representative and Senator, one of the first two Tennessee Supreme Court Justices, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and U.S. Ambassador to Russia. His wife Harriet Stoddert was the daughter of the secretary of the Navy in Thomas Jefferson’s cabinet. In 1843 Campbell sold a property known as “Campbell’s Hill” to the city of Nashville, later transferred to the state as the site of the Tennessee state capitol.
Mabel Lewis Imes was raised in New England, where she received an excellent education, learned to speak French, and took voice lessons. When she auditioned for the Fisk Jubilee Singers during their Eastern tour, they immediately invited her to sing contralto with the group . . . at the age of 13!
Thomas Crutcherserved as the State Treasurer of Tennessee for 25 years. An activist in promoting education for women, he was a founder and active trustee of the Nashville Female Academy, where the students called him “Uncle Crutcher.”
Lizzie Porterfield Elliottwas the daughter of Collins D. Elliott, president of the Nashville Female Academy, and she was perhaps the most compelling example of his belief in educating women. She taught in both public and private schools for more than 30 years and was active in educational and civic organizations. An authority on Tennessee history, she served as an officer in the Tennessee Historical Society. A bright and interesting woman, she authored the Early History of Nashville, still admired for its historical accuracy.
Before the section of the city north of the Cumberland River was known as Edgefield (and then East Nashville), it was referred to as Wetmore’s Addition. Moses Wetmore, the first person to subdivide the area into lots for homes and businesses, also donated the land for Holy Trinity Church and gave his name to two city streets.
Mayor John Patton Erwin served two terms as mayor of Nashville. He worked as a bank cashier (in those days, the equivalent of a bank manager), was editor of the Nashville Whig, and served as Postmaster, Justice of the Peace, and clerk of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
PowhatanMaxey served as a justice of the peace, an alderman for seven terms, and mayor of Nashville from 1843-1845. He negotiated the purchase of Capitol Hill from William Nichol and George W. Campbell, and then donated the land to the Tennessee General Assembly, provided they would locate the State Capitol on that site. (2013)
Previously published in Monuments & Milestones, the Nashville City Cemetery Newsletter.
Events of the past continue to shape our lives today, and the prosperous era of the 1850s is a case in point. In 1850 the first locomotive arrived in Nashville, sustaining and enhancing the city as a regional commercial and metropolitan hub, a standing we have never relinquished. Today’s Union Station, built at the turn of the century during the railroad boom, survives as one of our most beloved cultural landmarks.
The Medical School of the University of Nashville opened in 1851, met with immediate success, and quickly established Nashville as a medical center. Following in its wake, Shelby Medical College opened in 1858. The Nashville medical tradition continued with Vanderbilt University, which today provides one of America’s finest medical centers.
In 1854 the publishing arm of the Methodist Episcopal Church South opened on the public square, securing Nashville’s future as a publishing mecca. No doubt the presence here of the Methodist Publishing House played a part in the 1870s formation of Vanderbilt University, which began as a Methodist school. Still in operation today and publishing under several imprints, the publishing house has employed thousands of Nashvillians and pumped millions of dollars into our economy.
Nashville’s first public school was named in honor of educator Alfred Hume, who has been called “the father of Nashville public schools.” Hume School opened in 1855 with 12 teachers. From that modest beginning developed the sprawling Metro Nashville public school system with a total proposed operating budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year of $1,017,807,500, which provides for 157 schools, 86,000 students, and 11,000 employees.
The Tennessee State Capitol, completed in 1859, is the governmental temple in which our state laws are still sanctified. Other structures built in the 1850s that contribute to Nashville’s present character include Downtown Presbyterian Church (dedicated in 1851), Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (1852), Sunnyside Mansion (ca. 1852), Belmont Mansion (1853), Literary Building of the University of Nashville (1853), Church of the Assumption (completed in 1859), Clover Bottom Mansion (1859), and Two Rivers Mansion (1859).
These and other events from 150 years ago belie any notion that history is irrelevant. The past has not only a chronological relationship with the present but also a causative one. We did not just happen upon the present: the past is the impetus for today.
All postcards and photographs used in this article are part of the NHN collection.
Nashville began to attract streams of visitors almost from the moment it became a frontier trading post. As time passed, tourists and settlers came for the music and theatre and food, for history and politics and education, for the casual atmosphere and friendly people. It was educator Philip Lindsley (1785-1855) who first referred to Nashville as the “Athens of the South” (Philip actually said “Southwest”), for the city has long been a center of educational and cultural activities. And high on the list of attractions is the intriguing variety of architectural styles to be discovered here.
One’s first impression of Nashville, the downtown skyline, features the “Batman” and “R2-D2” building silhouettes, several tall hotels and banks, and the dear old L&C Tower, whose 31 floors made it, at the time of its 1957 opening, the “tallest commercial structure of its day in the Southeastern United States.”1 Church Street and Broadway feature some of our most interesting church buildings: the First Baptist Church; Christ Church Episcopal; McKendree Methodist, its earlier façades buried beneath layers of renovations; Downtown (First) Presbyterian with its rich and compelling history; and, a little farther out, the graceful Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Sixth Avenue.
Many tourists come to Nashville specifically to visit historic homes, and the city has a lovely collection of these as well: The Hermitage, fourth most-visited Presidential home in America (after the White House, Mount Vernon, and Monticello); Belmont, former home of one of the country’s richest women, and now the centerpiece of the Belmont University campus; Belle Meade and Travellers Rest, renowned for the breeding of magnificent horses; Cheekwood, with its exquisite gardens and galleries; and the wedding-cake charm of Clover Bottom and Two Rivers. Equally unforgettable are the stand-alone architectural delights of the Tennessee State Capitol, the Customs House, Union Station, Ryman Auditorium, and the splendid Parthenon, the crowning glory of Centennial Park and the only full-scale replica of the ancient Athenian temple in the world.
Yet if we could visit the Nashville of earlier days, we would be astonished, not only at the number of public buildings that have been transformed into more modern spaces, but also at the number that have disappeared forever.
Not all the stories have tragic endings, of course. Union Station was saved from impending destruction a few years ago, as was the Ryman. Moreover, the Metropolitan Historical Commission encourages preservation activities by presenting a number of awards each year to individuals and groups who have rescued and restored public or private structures throughout the city. But the very word “progress” conjures up an image of bulldozers, and Nashville, like many American cities, has seen far too many beautiful buildings destroyed to make room for, among other things, motels and parking lots!
One of the city’s loveliest lost buildings was the Second Presbyterian Church, once part of our riverfront skyline, but now only a fading image in a handful of old photos. The church stood on Third and Gay Streets, not far from the spot where the James Robertson Parkway crosses Third Avenue before swooping across Victory Memorial Bridge. Dr. John Todd Edgar and Dr. Philip Lindsley spoke at the church’s 1844 dedication.2
There are significant differences of opinion about the history of “2nd Pres,” as John Berrien Lindsley called it in his 1859 diary.3 Many Nashvillians believe that William Strickland, architect of the Capitol, designed the church. However, according to James Patrick, author of Architecture in Tennessee, 1768-1897, the architect was James M. Hughes, a man the Nashville City Directory lists as a carpenter.4 Patrick refers to a silver plate deposited in the cornerstone of the church naming Hughes as the architect. In 1844 the Nashville Whig listed the full text of the inscription:
The Second Presbyterian Church of Nashville, OLD SCHOOL. erected in the year of our lord 1844. Rev. Robert A. Lapsley, Pastor. Samuel Seay, William B. Shapard, William H Marquess, James M. Hamilton, and Adam G. Adams, Elders. Samuel Hill, Foster Williams, Abram Stevens, and John McCrea – Deacons. Organized February, 1844, with 32 Members. JOHN TYLER, President of the United States. James C. Jones, Governor of Tenn. P.W. Maxey, Mayor of Nashville. Population of Nashville, 8,000. James M. Hughes, Architect. Engraved by D. Adams.5
Adding further weight to Patrick’s assertion, Nell Savage Mahoney, a lifelong student of Strickland’s work, omits Second Presbyterian from her list of his creations.
Support for Strickland’s involvement, however, may be found in “William Strickland, Architect,” a 1986 article from the Tennessee Historical Quarterly. Author James A. Hoobler, Curator of the Capitol, compares the altar area of the Second Presbyterian Church with a Strickland drawing labeled “Second Presbyterian.” 6 The structural similarities of shape and dimension cannot be denied. (Hoobler has also discovered compelling evidence that St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, long attributed to William Strickland, was, in fact, built by Adolphus Heiman, but that’s a story for another day.)
Actually, a fairly strong case can be made for the possibility of a collaboration between the two men, with Strickland as teacher/adviser and Hughes as apprentice/contractor. Mahoney herself provides evidence of an earlier such alliance between Strickland and one of his students. Strickland is believed to have drawn the original elevation used by his former pupil Thomas U. Walter when the younger man was appointed to design a building for the Girard College campus in Philadelphia.7
Further evidence of a Strickland-Hughes partnership comes from Circuit Court records, January term 1857. Strickland had been engaged by H.R.W. Hill “to serve as an architect for and superintend the erection of a Methodist church [in New Orleans] . . .. William [Strickland] was put to great expense in going to and from said city during the progress of said work . . .. The church was built at the same time that the St. Charles Hotel was erected – both the St. Charles and the Methodist Church on Pozdras street were burned in February, 1850 . . .. Strickland and Hughes were here at the time, as this witness learned from Hughes, to get a contract for [re]building the St. Charles.”8
So even finding James Hughes’ name inside the cornerstone does not rule out the possibility that the original drawings for Second Presbyterian came from Strickland.
Newcomers may wonder why William Strickland’s buildings are so valuable. In fact, many people consider them national treasures – Strickland is widely considered to be one of the most influential architects of the nineteenth century. Prior to his move to Nashville, he built so many notable buildings in Philadelphia, he was sometimes called “the city architect.”9 Among his important designs there are the Second Bank of the United States (His best-known portrait places him in front of the Bank, which strongly resembles the Parthenon.); the Merchants Exchange; St. Stephen’s Church; Masonic Hall; and dozens more. In Nashville Strickland contributed to the design and re-design of many private homes, burial monuments, and a wide variety of public buildings. Best known, however, are the Downtown (First) Presbyterian Church – now widely considered America’s finest surviving example of church architecture in the Egyptian Revival style – and his masterpiece, the Tennessee State Capitol. Many of Strickland’s buildings have been designated National Historic Landmarks.
In 1902, convinced that the neighborhood was becoming too commercial, the Second Presbyterian congregation sold the building and relocated to North Nashville, moving again in 1929 to better oversee the Monroe-Harding Children’s Home in Green Hills.10 They left behind not only the classical simplicity of the building’s exterior, but also the beautiful interior, which included a painted fresco behind the altar suggesting a classical porch with a view of distant hills, and a network of intricate trompe l’oeil panels and columns adorning the ceiling and walls. For many years thereafter, the original building – described at the time of its dedication as a “new and beautiful edifice . . . an ornament to that part of the city”11 – was used by the Standard Candy Company as a warehouse.12
By the late 1970s the church building had become the property of Metro Nashville. The city’s plans to build a new Criminal Justice Center involved razing the old church and other nearby structures. Although preservation advocates from the Metropolitan Historical Commission and the Tennessee State Museum pleaded with city officials to be permitted at least to salvage significant architectural elements from the building, their requests were denied.13 In 1979 Nashville’s historic Second Presbyterian Church was bulldozed into rubble in order to provide a handful of parking spaces for the Criminal Justice Center.
1 Zepp, George. “Nashville L&C Tower once offered bird’s-eye view of Nashville,environs,” Nashville Tennessean, 16 Feb 2005.
2 Nashville Whig, April 27, 1844.
3 Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1600-ca. 1940. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
4 Patrick, James. Architecture in Tennessee, 1768-1897. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981.
5 Nashville Whig, April 27, 1844.
6 Hoobler, James A. “William Strickland, Architect,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Spring 1986.7 Mahoney, Nell Savage (1889-1986) Papers, 1825-1972. THS Acc. No. 457 & 681. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
12 Hoobler, James A. A Guide to Historic Nashville, Tennessee. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008.
13 Hoobler, James A. A Guide to Historic Nashville, Tennessee.
This article was first published in The Nashville Retrospect. We thank publisher Allen Forkum for his permission to republish it here. Much gratitude also to Jim Hoobler, Cathi Carmack, Lori Lockhart, and Mike Slate for helping me untangle the knotted threads of this story. KBL
This sad tale of woe involves four principal players: the victim, John W. Kirk, Superintendent of Prisons; Andrew B. Vaughn, Warden of Coal Creek Prison, who fired the fatal shot; O. B. Paxton, a prison guard, whose appointment by Kirk and dismissal by Vaughn made him the center of the controversy; and Paxton’s friend J. T. Davis, Chairman of Marshall County Democratic Executive Committee and intended target of the shooting.
Kirk, the former Warden of Coal Creek, had hired Paxton as a guard there. After Kirk’s promotion to Superintendent, Andrew Vaughn was named to succeed him. Vaughn soon removed Paxton from his position as prison guard for alleged rule violations, but Kirk reassigned Paxton to temporary work at the main prison.
Vaughn came to Nashville on Wednesday, May 29, 1895, to attend his niece’s wedding and then to transport a convict back to Coal Creek. He called on Superintendent Kirk at the Capitol to discuss the Paxton case–namely, who had authority to hire and fire prison guards.
A conflict erupted when Vaughn encountered Paxton in the crowded first floor corridor and accused him of lying to Kirk. Hurling violent epithets, the two began to fight. Davis, a friend of Paxton, attempted to separate them. Vaughn lashed out with his walking stick, striking Davis twice on the head and causing a large knot over one eye. Vaughn was himself injured after Davis wrenched the stick from his grip.
The men were finally separated. Paxton and Davis were taken to the Governor’s Office, where Governor Peter Turney and his son James were having lunch. The Turneys attempted unsuccessfully to hold on to Davis, who was still in possession of Vaughn’s stick. Warden Vaughn, meanwhile, had been taken to the Treasurer’s Office to calm down but insisted that his stick be returned.
When Davis heard about Vaughn’s demand, he eluded the Governor’s grip and rushed to the Treasurer’s Office at the end of the hallway. Davis and Vaughn began cursing each other again. Senator W.P. Caldwell, who was sitting in the Treasurer’s Office, promptly fled through the nearest window. Vaughn grabbed the stick, but Davis snatched it back and struck his opponent on the head. Enraged, Vaughn pulled a gun from his pocket, firing three shots. The first barely missed Davis, causing powder burns to his face. He pushed past Deputy Insurance Commissioner Ridley Wills and raced into the corridor. Vaughn followed, firing at least two more shots in the main corridor, where Superintendent Kirk crouched near the north wall. The second or third bullet accidentally struck Kirk behind the left ear, lodging in his brain.
Warden Vaughn sidestepped Kirk’s body and continued his pursuit of Davis, who escaped by ducking into the Adjutant General’s Office. Returning to the Treasurer’s Office, Vaughn stated calmly that Superintendent Kirk was the best friend he ever had.
The shooting occurred at 2:10 p.m., shortly before the legislature was to convene in their chambers upstairs. The shots were heard throughout the busy building and out on the streets. The halls quickly filled with curious people after the news was telephoned down into the city.
Kirk was carried to State Treasurer E. B. Craig’s office, and Representative R. E. Maiden attended to him by placing a bundle of pamphlets under his head until Doctors Eve and Briggs arrived. They dressed the wound and transported Kirk to City Hospital, not expecting him to live long. No attempt was made to remove the bullet. Governor Turney telephoned Mrs. Kirk in Henderson, TN, to come at once. She sat by her husband’s bedside as he drifted in and out of consciousness, able to answer “yes” or “no” to some questions. A robust man, he lived from Wednesday afternoon until 12:24 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, 1895.
Vaughn and Davis quietly submitted to arrest when the police arrived. Taken to the station house, neither was placed behind bars. Davis returned to his home on the afternoon train; Vaughn was charged with two counts of assault and released on $5,000 bail. He was later indicted for murder. At the end of his sensational two-week murder trial ending on April 15, 1896, the jury declared Vaughn “not guilty.”
Thus concludes the nearly forgotten tale of the only person killed in the Tennessee State Capitol . . . so far.
How many court buildings have stood on the public square in Nashville? Published sources offer conflicting information, some stating the number as four and others as five. Research in the minute books of the Davidson County Court has provided the following details.
The building of the first Courthouse was authorized by the Davidson County Court at the October Term 1783: “The Court then proceeded to fix on a place for Building of a Courthouse & Prison, and agree that in the present situation of the Settlement that it be at Nashborough and Built at the Expense of the Publick. And that the size of the Courthouse be eighteen feet square in the body with a Leanto Shade of twelve feet on the one side of the length of the House. And that the house be furnished with the necessary benches, Barr, Table &c fit for the Reception of the Court.” In April of 1792 the Court “ordered thatDavid Hay repair the Court house by Making Two Doors well fixed and Hung with three window shutters well hung; and the house Well chinked.”
Davidson County Court minutes of October 15, 1802, page 367, report as follows: “Court adjourns for five minutes, to meet in the new Courthouse. Court met according to adjournment in the New Courthouse where was present . . ..” A further search of Court minutes yields few clues as to the size or type of building. In 1804 the Court ordered the purchasing of a bell for the Courthouse and in 1806 the painting of the roof and steps. In 1822 the Court “ordered that opening at the head of the Stairs be closed, leaving a door there to which he shall have a shutter made and to have the two stoves placed one on each side of the house behind the bar with pipes extending so as to render the house comfortable for the different courts that are to set here during the winter . . ..” In October 1825 a commission was appointed to determine whether the Courthouse could be repaired to make it comfortable enough for the Court to meet in winter or whether it would be necessary to rent a building for the winter.
In January 1826 the acting Justices of the Court met and voted to raise, with a special tax, $15,000 over a period of three years for the purpose of building a courthouse for the county. The Courthouse was finished in late 1829 or early 1830. It is described in Eastin Morris’s Tennessee Gazetteer, 1834: “The Court House which stands on the public square, is a spacious and commodious edifice. It presents a handsome front of 105 feet and is sixty-three feet deep. The basement story contains a number of rooms, designed for public offices, and on the second and third floors there are two rooms forty by sixty feet each, two others thirty-six by forty, and two others twenty-three by forty. The basement story is eleven feet high, and the two principal ones are eighteen feet each, and the height of the whole building to the top of the dome is ninety feet. The foundation and part of the lower story is of fine hewn stone, and the remainder of brick, and the two fronts are ornamented with four white pilasters each, The dome contains a good town clock, and is supported by eight columns of Ionic order.” This Courthouse burned in 1856. The County Court minutes state: “Monday Morning April 14, 1856 Court met pursuant to adjournment at the State House in Nashville (the Court House having been burned down) . . ..”
On May 10, 1856, the Court met in the Market House: “The County Court will build a Courthouse on or near the center of the Public Square in Nashville . . ..” According to County Court minutes, architect W. Francis Strickland, son of William Strickland, designer of the Tennessee State Capitol, was “employed at a salary of one thousand dollars per annum as architect of the court house.” The design chosen by Strickland was very similar to that of the Capitol building designed by his father. The building was to have a basement and three stories above ground, and was to be 118 feet by 72 feet in size. The Court first met in the new building in January 1859. The building was remodeled in 1910 with an additional story added. In 1935 this building, along with the City Hall and Market House, was demolished to make room for a new courthouse.
The present Courthouse was completed in 1937. The architects, Emmons H. Woolwine of Nashville and Frederic C. Hirons of New York, won an architectural competition in 1935 with their Art Deco design. The cornerstone of the building was laid August 10, 1936, and the building was dedicated on December 8, 1937. The general contractor was the J. A. Jones Construction Company. The building is eight stories high and measures 260 feet by 96 feet. The years have taken a toll – the building is in need of repair and the need for space is critical. Mayor Bill Purcell hopes to relieve the crowded conditions in the Courthouse by the construction of a General Sessions-Criminal Court complex, near the Ben West building. Plans are under way for a major renovation of the Courthouse to begin in the spring of 2003. (Article was published in 2002)