History of the Neighborhood

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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.

 

block-by-block home history tour

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Richland Avenue

The Richland Avenue median is an original green space.  It is slightly narrower than it was when it was built and the round islands at the intersections are gone, but it has survived several attempts through the years to have it removed.

Westminster Presbyterian Church stands on the site of the mansion owned by Benjamin F. Wilson, for whom Wilson Boulevard is named. Wilson, Confederate veteran, banker,  newspaper publisher, member of the executive committee of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and self-styled “capitalist,” built this house in 1905.  By 1915, it had been bought by John M. Gray, Jr. of the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company, and his wife, Reba.  In 1954, the Grays sold the front yard to Westminster Presbyterian Church for $24,000.  The old house stood at the foot of Richland Avenue until sometime in the 1970s, when the church tore it down to make room for an addition.

Neighborhood legend has it that the Wilson home burned one night after a debutante ball.  Their former house at 220 6th Avenue, North, may have burned, but this one did not.

3500 BLOCK       

  • 3503 - This circa 1920 home was the residence of 1960’s University of Tennessee football star Richmond Flowers. The catalpa tree in the front yard was a winner in the Nashville Tree Foundation’s Big Old Tree Contest.
  • 3504 - This house is built of Tennessee Crab Orchard stone.  It was also the residence of Claude and Nellie Watkins.  Claude was the Secretary of A. L.  Goldberg and Company, a large lumber dealer.
  • 3506 - When this stucco bungalow was purchased for renovation in 1993, it had a tree growing through the roof and a Metro Codes Violation file one inch thick.  In happier days, it had been the home of the Bittner family.  They were called “costumers” back then, but now they are known for their tuxedo rentals.
  • 3507 - In the 1970s this yellow brick house became a group home for adults needing care.  It later was a home for orphans.
  • 3511, 3513, 3515 - These condos were built about 1980 on the former parking lot of the Jewish Community Center which stood on West End where the large condos are.
  • 3512, 3514 - The two duplexes were built circa 1980.  The houses that stood there were torn down to construct the Greenway Extension which was to connect Murphy Road with West End as part of I-440.  The Extension was never built.
  • 3519 – This 1906 Colonial Revival house was once called the “Elephant House” because of an add-on staircase, resembling an elephant’s trunk, that descended straight from the second story almost to the sidewalk.  James L. Wrenne, Manager of David P. Wrenne & Company, Bankers and Insurance, was an early resident.
  • 3521 - This duplex also replaced a house that was torn down for the Greenway Extension.
  • 3523 - This house, built in 1911, was scheduled to be demolished for the Extension.  It was saved because TDOT used it as a field office during I-440 construction.  It later sat abandoned until 1985, when it was sold and renovated.
  • 3532 - Site of the Richland Apartments, torn down about 1972 to construct the Free Will Baptist Bible College’s gym.  The house next door, at 3530, was demolished at the same time for a parking lot.  A beautiful stained glass transom went to the dump with the rest of the house.

3600 BLOCK   

  • 3600 -This house was built in 1908 by John Rogers Grooms who was the grandfather of Red Grooms, the famous artist.  Early pictures show farmland in the rear of the house and the big maple in the front yard as a sapling.  The finial on the roof is original and probably the only one still surviving in the neighborhood. 
  • 3602 - This may be the oldest house in the neighborhood, except for the Craighead house.  The leaded glass in the front is beautiful at night.
  • 3603 - This house was built in 1939. The bricks used to build it may be the same used to build the Concordia Lutheran Church (3501 Central Avenue).
  • 3608 - This house was built by Ed Potter, the founder of Commerce Union Bank (now Bank of America).  By 1930, his son, Ed, Jr. was living here.
  • 3621 - Before its destruction for the Free Will Baptist Bible College, this was the site of the Belle Haven Apartments.

3700 BLOCK 

  • 3700 -   This circa 1915 house belonged to Mary Denmark Bell, who was related to the Bells of Bell Witch fame.  The Henderson Bakers also lived here; he was a lumber dealer who owned his own logging railroad in Alabama.  For 30 years, it was the office of the Disciples of Christ.  The entire backyard was covered in asphalt and used for parking.
  • 3702 -   This Georgian Revival house was built in 1905 by Mr. & Mrs. George Frazer; she was Sadie, the oldest daughter of Percy Warner.  In more recent years it was a rooming house and fell into sad disrepair before being rejuvenated by the present owners.
  • 3705 -   This foursquare belongs to Free Will Baptist Bible College and in the past few years has been restored for use by its president.  During World War II, the Robert E. Cain family lived there; he was an executive of Cain-Sloan department store and a member of that family.
  • 3706 -   This house, built in 1905, was bought by W. E. Knight in 1918 and his daughters lived there for 73 years.  He was a mule dealer who sold mules to the Army in World War I.  When the house was remodeled in the 1990’s, workers discovered that it had never been hooked up to the sewer system.
  • 3708 -   Built in 1909 by Guthrie Kimbrough who had paid $900 for the lot.  It was rented for a couple of years around 1920 by Mr. & Mrs. Fitzgerald Hall; he later became President of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, which ran by our neighborhood and is now CSX.  In 1922, it was bought by the A. V. McLains, long-time U. S. Attorney, who lived there 32 years. A number of Mr. McLain’s plants are still in the yard.
  • 3709 -   When Georgia and Tom Smith were married in 1926, as a wedding present her father gave them this house built of Jamestown stone (similar to Crab Orchard).  The Smiths lived there all their 60 years of married life and the house is still in the family.  An interesting dinner guest many years ago was Sergeant Alvin York, Medal of Honor hero of World War I.
  • 3710 -   Frank Guthrie, owner of Nashville Casket Company, built this house for his nephew, as well as his own house next door at 3712.
  • 3712 -   For many years, this was the home of Russ and Julie McCown.  Russ was famous as the local television personality “Sir Cecil Creap.”  Scenes from the Patsy Cline movie biography Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange, were shot here.  Beginning in 1948 when it was bought by Vine Street Christian Church, it was a home for old ladies, a half-way house for recovering alcoholic women, and a 7-step home for recently released prisoners.  That last use was a prime mover in the founding of the neighborhood association.
  • 3713 -   This 1920 house was once condemned as “unfit for human habitation.”  That was after a possum fell through the ceiling from the attic.  In the 1970s, a frequent visitor would park his big bus on the street.  The visitor was Jimmy Buffett.  When the house was restored, a second story was added on.  It previously was very similar to 3710 across the street.  Since 2005 it has been the site of the Great Pumpkin display.
  • 3714 -   Mr. & Mrs. J. T. Stovall built this house in 1913.  From 1940 until the mid ’60s, it was owned by the Joy family of Joy Florists.
  • 3717 -   The Tillman Cavert family built this house in 1911.  In the early 1920s, an airplane with a pilot and one passenger, who was dating one of the Cavert girls, crashed into a tree in the backyard.  There are two stories: one that no one was seriously hurt and the other that one of the men died.
  • 3723 -    This house was the home of the owners of Saunders Manufacturing Company.  Mr. Saunders was an accomplished magician who entertained all over the South and was beloved by neighborhood children.  From the ’50s to the ’70s it was a real boarding house where meals were still served to residents.
  • 3725 -   The bungalow that once stood here was the home of a well-known bootlegger during Prohibition.  Rumor has it that he stored liquor in a cave under the house and built a tunnel under Richland to escape when the revenuers came.  However, since he supposedly supplied Mayor Howse (who lived just down the street), the agents seldom bothered him.  
  • 3727 - This corner house was never divided into apartments or made into a boarding house.  The basement has a door leading to something underground.  This may have been the legendary bootlegger’s tunnel that has been discussed for years.  The exterior walls are three bricks thick with horsehair plaster laid directly on the brick.

3800 BLOCK   

  • 3800 -   This cottage was built about 1912 by C. W. Davis.  In the 1950s it was the home of Richard Morrison, the sales manager at C. P. Street Piano Company and later, the Parmers of H. E. Parmer Company roofing contractors.
  • 3801 - This house, built in 1908 of Bowling Green limestone, was a wedding gift for Morris Wilson from his mother who lived in a mansion on the site of Westminster Presbyterian Church.  By the late 1930s it had become a boarding house and Sarah Cannon (“Minnie Pearl”) boarded here after graduating from Ward-Belmont Women’s College.  By 1983, when the present owners bought it, it had been converted into three apartments, was vacant, and soon to be condemned.  
  • 3802 -  The 1984 Disney movie Love Leads the Way, starring Timothy Bottoms, was filmed at this house.  It detailed the life of Morris Frank, the man who introduced seeing-eye dogs to this country in 1928 and established in Nashville the first training school for the dogs in the U. S.  Frank had lived across the street at 3809, which was razed in the ’50s for a parking lot for the synagogue.  The roof line of this house was substantially changed after the film was made.
  • 3806 - This circa 1920 house is a Nashville version of the bungalow.  It was built of limestone, which was popular in Nashville at the time, rather than the more traditional wood frame or brick.
  • 3808 - Hilary E. Howse (1866-1938), mayor of Nashville for 21 years, lived here.  West End High School, which opened soon after his death, was to have been named for him.  His long political life and often-unpopular stances had earned him many enemies who carried the day for a different name.
  • 3809 - This house was built in the 1980s for the rabbi of West End Synagogue.  It is the site of Morris Frank’s home, mentioned above.
  • 3814 - Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Albert B. Neil, Sr. (1873-1966) lived here.  On the eve of the bar exam, Judge Neil would always invite a candidate to spend the night; it is said that no invitee ever failed.  The 1987 Video of the Year, 80’s Ladies by K. T. Oslin, was filmed in its entirety here.  But the most important fact about this house is that it was the birthplace and home for nine years of the famous Richland Avenue Great Pumpkin display held on each Halloween.  By the time the display moved up the street in 2005, there were over 200 pumpkins for happy visitors to see, and it had become a neighborhood tradition.
  • 3817 - This 1917 home incorporates several early 20th century design styles, including Creole cottage elements.  In the 1920s it was occupied by Governor McMillan’s sister and her husband.  The McMillan house at 3823 was separated from it by a large rose garden.
  • 3820 -  This was the long-time home of the Wherry family.  John Wherry owned Wherry Furniture Company and his son, who also lived there, was a real estate salesman who sold many of the houses in the neighborhood in the 1950–1975 period.
  • 3821 - This house is infill from the 1950s.
  • 3823 - Former Governor and Congressman Benton McMillan (1845-1933) built this house about 1918.  While in Congress from 1879 to 1899, he was a strong supporter of a national income tax.  He served as governor from 1899 to 1903.
  • 3825 - For 40 years, this 1915 foursquare with classical revival details was the meeting place of the New Century Club, a women’s social and civic club.  The club nameplate remains over the door, but this is now a private residence.
  • 3827 - This house was built about 1980 on a vacant lot.
  • 3828 - Built in 1910, this house was owned in the 1930s by J. D. Goodpasture, an early supporter of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was Chairman of Fred Walter Hosiery Mills. It was later occupied by the first director of the Bill Wilkerson Speech and Hearing Center, Freeman McConnell, and his wife Grace.
  • 3829 -  One of the stories about this house is that it was the home of Bill Wilkerson, for whom the Speech and Hearing Center was named.  It was the home of a Wilkerson family, but the name was J. Morgan Wilkerson, Jr., Vice President of Nashville Pure Milk Company (“Our Spotless White Wagons Cover Nashville and Suburbs”).  The exterior is Indiana limestone.  Of interest are the five sizes of stone and how they touch each other.  The same pattern was used for the 1992 house at 3704 Central.
 

Central Avenue

3500 BLOCK 

  • 3501 - Concordia Lutheran Church was built in 1937.  The original building’s unusual brick came from the floor of the old Louisville & Nashville Railroad roundhouse.  The annual neighborhood picnic is held on the grounds.  The huge linden tree on the corner of Richland was a winner in the Nashville Tree Foundation’s Big Old Tree Contest.
  • 3504 - This circa 1920 bungalow has unusual Japanese-style porch supports and gable brackets.
  • 3511 - Country music artist and songwriter Aaron Tippin filmed his first video, You’ve Got to Stand for Something, at this house.
  • 3512 - The “Sears House” was ordered from Sears, Roebuck in 1911 by John B. Torrey and his 17-year-old bride, Anita Osuna.  Anita was from Mexico and the house was designed to be reminiscent of a Mexican home.  Frank Lloyd Wright moonlighted for Sears and this $16,000 house has some Wright aspects; possibly he did design it but no one knows now.  After the Torreys left, it fell on hard times and was split into apartments.  The current owners bought it in 1984 and began the slow and successful process of bringing it back to life.
  • 3514 - This house was built in 1940.
  • 3513, 3515 – These are two more of the duplexes built after the Greenway Extension clearing came to naught.
  • 3522 - The home belonged to Dr. Robert G. and Catherine Moore Oakley from the mid 1940s to 1975. He was an optometrist and practiced at 511 Union St. in downtown Nashville.
  • 3521, 3525 – These are early duplexes which were probably built in the 1950 period.

3600 BLOCK    

  • 3601 - This was owned by John Hopper Nye (b. 1890), managing editor of the Tennessean during the 1920s.
  • 3617 - The former home of Nashville publisher John Seigenthaler, this house was also the residence of Hank Williams, Sr.  According to legend, he sat on the wall by the sidewalk and played and sang.
  • 3620 - Cowboy movie star Lash LaRue (1917-1996) briefly lived here.
  • 3623 - Built in 1923 by a man named Anderson, it was home for 50 years for the Koch family.

3700 BLOCK   

  • 3700 -  This house has been the location for movie scenes, music videos, and commercials.  It was built about 1910 of cedar shake shingles from Washington state.  During the 1940s it sat vacant for several years; the neighborhood kids liked to roller skate in the large first floor.
  • 3701 - Harry Ambrose, one-time president of Ambrose Printing Company, bought this house about 1922.
  • 3704 - Well-designed to fit into the neighborhood, this house was built in 1992.  The stonework has the same interesting pattern as the house at 3829 Richland.
  • 3705 - Dr. Joseph Lentz, the father of public health in Nashville, lived here.  For a brief period in the 1980s, country music star Mary Chapin Carpenter also lived in this house.
  • 3706 - This large house was originally a four square; the wings on each side were added early. William Hunter Washington (1860-c.1927) and his second wife, Rowena Thompson, lived here for about 20 years.  He was district attorney and a well-known lawyer in private practice.
  • 3709 - In March 2005, portions of the Sally Field movie 2 Weeks were filmed here.  In 1930, coal dealer Clarence Spore and his wife, a stenographer for the N C & StL Railway, were living here. 
  • 3712 - Built in 1914 by newlyweds Thomas and Ethel Scoggins, this craftsman bungalow had the first sliding garage doors in Nashville, according to Mrs. Scoggins.  Tom was a wholesale food broker.  It was also once the home of John J. Ventrees, a prominent attorney and outspoken opponent of women’s suffrage.
  • 3714 - This 1912-1914 Tudor house has a Flemish bond brick exterior. In the 1930s, it was the home of Circuit Court Judge E. Frank Langford, and his wife Annie.
  • 3715 - This house, dating from about 1980, was built in the former garden of 3717 next door.
  • 3717 - Neighborhood lore has it that soldiers from World War I troop trains came to this house to drink from a well in the front yard.  At that time, the house could be seen from the tracks.  Troop trains often stopped here for long periods waiting to move into Union Station. 
  • 3719 - Bertram A. Chalfant, and his wife, Elva, lived here in the 1920s.  Mr. Chalfant was the circulation manager of The Southern Agriculturist.
  • 3722 - The architects of this Colonial Revival home were Calvin and Moses McKissack.  Their firm, McKissack & McKissack, was one of the first African-American architecture firms in the U. S. and is still in business.  The house was built for a lumber dealer named Bastian, who may have been a vendor of the McKissacks. Later it was the residence of Dr. John Overton, City Health Director, and descendant of John Overton, early pioneer and associate of Andrew Jackson’s. This was also the long-time home of Harry and Anna Sternheimer who were among the founders of RWENA.
 

Bowling Avenue

Bowling was named for Gertrude (Bowling) Whitworth, who sold a large tract of land across West End in 1910 for $100,000.  She was a descendant of Charles Bosley, for whom Bosley Springs was named. The 100 block was the location of a car crash scene, with fake rain and lightning, in  a made-for-TV movie The Cradle Will Fall starring Lauren Hutton.

 

Meadowbrook Avenue

A brook (actually more of a ditch in later years) ran behind houses on the south side of the street. About 25 years ago it was put into a pipe and covered over.

3600 BLOCK   

  • 3613 - This house was built in 1918 by a Smith family.  A daughter of the family has related how she and her brother played in the stream behind their house.  Her father made the terraces in the back yard out of rocks he dug up when he built a basement.
  • 3620 - This bungalow was the home of twin brothers Clarence “Bubber” (1897-1977) and Claude (1897-1959) Jonnard.  They both played for six years on several major league teams.  In 1937, after his playing career ended, Clarence became a scout for the New York Mets and other teams.
  • 3622 -  It is said that this 1922 cottage was once a doctor’s office.
 

Princeton Avenue

3700 BLOCK  

  • 3708 - Tim Moses and Tricia Drake purchased the home from Christine Jarret's daughter, Caroline Elam, in the spring of 1999. Renovations and Improvements: They removed a bordering hedge row that was several feet away from the property line and put in a privacy fence. In winter of 1999-2000, they did a major renovation, adding 1200 sq ft. A master bedroom suite, upstairs bedroom, office, workshop, deck, skylights, and a central kitchen open to the upstairs were part of the renovation. In 2008, they added a stone patio to the front, painted the exterior and replaced the roof. Of special note, the stone for the patio came from Tricia's grandmother's house in Murray, KY that was demolished the previous year.
 

Harvard Avenue

300 BLOCK   

  • 300 - The Morgan family lived here from 1928 to 1938.  There was Mom and Dad, seven children, and the grandparents.  The family hosted weekly dances in the front room for all the neighbors on Harvard.  
 

Westbrook Avenue

3600 BLOCK  

  • 3611 - The separate house in back was a song-writing and recording studio built by former owner and Christian songwriter Billy Sprague.  The loft beams were given to him by artist Somers Randolph and came from the building that is now the Wildhorse Saloon.

3700 BLOCK    

  • 3710 - This Federal-style house was built in 1810 for John and Jane (Erwin) Craighead.  Jane was the recent widow of Charles Dickinson, who had been killed by Andrew Jackson in a duel.  After Jane died, John married another widow, Lavinia (Robertson) Beck.  She was the daughter of Nashville founders James and Charlotte Robertson, which is why Charlotte Robertson, as a very old woman, died in this house in 1843.  The contractor for the house was James Robertson, Jr. and he was assisted by his 14-year-old adopted son, Samuel Watkins, who later endowed what is now Watkins College of Art and Design.  The bricks were made on site.  One source says that this is the oldest house in Davidson County that has been used continuously as a residence.

By Carter Baker