Scott Broden, The Daily News Journal, February 20, 2019
A future development in Murfreesboro’s Gateway area may replace earth mounds that were part of Fortress Rosecrans during the Civil War.
“Fortress Rosecrans was a 200-acre fort that was constructed to serve as a supply depot for the Union following the Battle of Stones River,” said Gib Backlund, the retired chief of operations for Stones River National Battlefield. “The fort was built by soldiers and freed African-Americans who were living in the area.”
Remaining earth mound portions of Fortress Rosecrans are located in Old Fort Park off Old Fort Parkway. The site provides an asphalt and boardwalk greenway with historic markers that explain the fort built with mounds of earth.
The future mixed-use development is on the south side of Medical Center Parkway, and sits between Fire Station 4 to the east and city land for sale to the west. Near the Stones River, the development’s zoning includes plans for 167 assisted living dwellings, 90 residential condominiums, offices and retail spaces, property owner Joe Swanson Jr. said.
“Nothing is definite,” said Swanson, adding that the property is a year away before building construction can start. “It’s speculative property. There’s a lot of grading that needs to be done.”
Save historic places whenever possible
Swanson took over the development about a year ago. Part of this project included buying nearly 10 acres from the city for $2.8 million.
Historic preservationists such as Backlund wish the portion of the property that was a part of Fortress Rosecrans could remain.
“I think it’s important to whenever possible to save historic places, that would be buildings and landscapes, because they help tell the story of where we live and who we are,” said Backlund, who serves on the city’s Historic Zoning Commission.
Fortress Rosecrans straddled Medical Center Parkway (called Wilkinson Pike during the Civil War) and Old Nashville Highway-College Avenue (called Nashville Turnpike during the war).
“The idea was to have the railroad and the highway running through it, so they could just load supplies onto the trains and the wagons inside the fort to supply the army as it moved toward Chattanooga and Atlanta,” Backlund said.
Councilman wants road named for fort
The development on Medical Central Parkway had a part of the fort known as Lunette (military term for corner) Negley to honor Union Gen. James Negley. Nashville’s Fort Negley also bears the general’s name, Backlund said.
Although the earth mounds for the fort will make way for construction, Murfreesboro City Councilman Eddie Smotherman proposes that an access road honor Fortress Rosecrans.
“We want to remember this spot because this mound was created during the Civil War,” said Smotherman, who is active with the Rutherford County Historical Society. “My suggestion has been because of this being the Negley section of the Fortress Rosecrans that we refer to this roadway as Negley Way. I hope that comes to fruition.”
The main access road, however, will be called Rapha, which is a biblical word for healer, said Swanson, whose family development business often uses biblical references.
Swanson said he’ll consider naming another part of the development in honor of Negley “if I actually end up building there.”
Historic inventory needed
The Fortress Rosecrans section by Medical Center Parkway included cannons aimed at downtown Murfreesboro in case of attack, Smotherman said.
“It’s a part of our history, and I hope that we can retain that and preserve it at least in name and understanding,” Smotherman said. “The nation was torn apart, and fortunately we were able to heal. We’ve come a long way, but we still got a ways to go.”
In the meantime, Backlund hopes the city will do more to preserve history.
“What I think we need is a good inventory of historic and natural resources, so that we do consider those resources in our planning,” Backlund said.