Heritage group needs help preserving endangered sites

Michelle Willard, the Murfreesboro Post, January 18, 2009

Since the Tennessee Preservation Trust began its “Ten in Tennessee,” an annual listing of the top 10 endangered historic sites in the state, in 2001 only three have been lost.

One of those lost treasures was the Hiram Jenkins House, right here in Rutherford County.

“Endangered (means) ‘In Danger of Losing’ the site or its historical value through development without preservation,” explained Linda Lichtenberger, communications chairman of Heritage Partnership of Rutherford County, “or flat out demolition of the structure – like the Jenkins House – for money … or encroachment or destruction of cemeteries that could be lost from deterioration and abandonment. Or we just flat out don’t know about the site.”

The Hiram Jenkins House, formerly at 1556 Gresham Lane, was demolished June 10, 2006 by the property owners, scarcely a month after it was listed as an endangered site. The house was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 for its architectural significance.

The property is within the 4,000 acres where the Battle of Stones River raged and the house served as a field hospital during the Civil War battle.

It’s the losses of the Jenkins House and others like it that prompted the Heritage Partnership to ask the Rutherford County and Murfreesboro communities to submit ideas for sites that need protection from development or neglect.

Heritage Partnership of Rutherford County works with Tennessee Preservation Trust annually to seek nominations from the public forthe “Ten in Tennessee.”

“There are many sites off the main roads and highways that have some historical significance in the history of Rutherford County,” Lichtenberger said. “We are requesting the grass-roots community send us their nominations. It can be anything countywide from a bridge, neighborhood, old mill, home, cemetery, church, courthouse, archeological feature or farmland.”

Along with the Hiram Jenkins House, Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery (2008), the Ragland Court subdivision (2007) and MTSU’s President’s House (2005) have all made the Ten in Tennessee list.

Lichtenberger said many sites like Springfield and the associated Washington cemetery on Manson Pike, Elmwood and the Hord farm on Old Nashville Highway, homes on East Burton Street and the Arnhart Building on North University Street near Middle Tennessee Medical Center are all threatened by growth.

“While that (Arnhart Building) is not a historical site, the question to the Historical District and Main Street groups is what would be its replacement? Parking lot? Prior to the Arnhart Building construction a beautiful historical home was demolished on that corner,” she said.

Although there are many known endangered historic sites across the county, there are even more that are unknown.

“The unknown sites are the ones we hope to find with (the community’s) help or those that have a significant impact on our residents,” Lichtenberger said.

Send suggestions to the Hertiage Partnership of Rutherford County at PO Box 12327, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 37129 or e-mail President Rob Sanders at r.sanders@heritagepartnership.org.

Be sure to include your name and contact information, as well as historic site information so the HPRC can visit and take photographs of the site. The deadline is Sunday, Feb. 15.

Heritage Partnership of Rutherford County works actively to identify, establish and support partnerships among individuals and organizations in the public and private sector to identify our historical and cultural resources and to education the value of preserving our heritage.

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or mwillard@murfreesboropost.com.

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