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RWENA Historic Marker

RWENA History.

The Richland-West End neighborhood was created in 1905, when a group of investors led by Guilford Dudley Sr. bought a large parcel of property on West End Avenue (formerly Richland Pike), laid out the streets and sidewalks and subdivided the property into small lots, constructed medians and lined the streets with trees. Richland-West End became one of Nashville’s earliest planned subdivisions. Developers also paid for a trolley line to be extended from downtown to their new development. Cars were rare in Nashville in 1905, so you will notice that the original front walks for each property lead from the front door to the public sidewalk rather than to a driveway.

The property that the investors bought was originally the farm of John Brown Craighead, a second-generation Nashville settler. His federal style brick home, built c. 1809 at the back of the neighborhood on Westbrook Avenue is on our tour today.

The oldest houses in this neighborhood are the large four-squares on Richland and Central Avenues. Most were built between 1905 and 1910 for doctors, lawyers, successful business owners, and other members of the upper-middle class. The streets that are further away from West End Avenue, including Princeton, Meadowbrook, Westbrook, and Greenway Avenues, were built a few years later. These streets included the more modest bungalows and cottages. The bungalow is the predominant architectural style in this neighborhood. It was an exceptionally popular style that migrated from India, California and moving east. Sears and Roebuck offered catalogs featuring architectural plans and materials for bungalows, cottages, and even the large four-squares. In general, the bungalow is a modest one or one-and-a-half story dwelling with a prominent roof line, horizontal orientation and sizable front porch.

The neighborhood prospered for about 40 years and remained stable through World War II. After World War II, affluent residents of urban neighborhoods moved out to the new suburbs. Richland-West End was no exception. Post-war housing shortages in Nashville were especially acute in the university sector due to the surge in college attendance by veterans on the GI Bill. In this neighborhood, many owners responded to the pressures for more housing by turning their homes into boarding houses or dividing them into apartments. Although hundreds of old homes elsewhere were torn down in the 1960s for urban renewal, the houses in this neighborhood mostly remained, but were decayed and neglected. In the early 1970s, a handful of “urban pioneers” saw the neighborhood’s potential and began to return the houses to single-family homes. Together with a few long-time residents, they formed the Richland-West End Neighborhood Association in 1975. In 1978, the neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the listing citing “the numerous representative styles of early 20th century architecture in a geographically small area.”

Ninety percent of the homes in Richland-West End were built between 1905 and 1935. We have protected the neighborhood’s special historical character by going through the statutory process and successfully lobbying the Metropolitan Council to approve this neighborhood as a conservation zoning district. Conservation zoning is a type of zoning overlay that requires review and approval by the Metropolitan Historic Zoning commission of certain exterior work on buildings, including new construction, additions, demolitions, and relocations. The guidelines protect the neighborhood from new construction or additions not in character with the neighborhood, as seen from the street, and from the loss of architecturally or historically important buildings. The historic conservation overlay was supported by a petition signed by more than 70 percent of the neighborhood’s households.

One thing that draws neighborhood residents together is our love of our historic houses. Our constant renovations and improvements, our enthusiasm for our gardens, and the pleasure of showcasing our houses, gardens and public spaces during our annual home tour contribute to our satisfaction. We work hard to enhance the beauty of our public spaces. For instance, we created a tree program that matches a neighbor’s tree purchase for planting in neighborhood public spaces. Knowledgeable neighbors have documented the native species represented in the neighborhood. We have been recognized in Nashville as an Arboretum.

by Carter Baker.