New group advocates historic preservation

Erin Edgemon, The Murfreesboro Post, January 7, 2007

A county wide organization with a mission to educate, advocate for and ensure the preservation of Rutherford County’s culture and history is seeking members.

The demolition of the antebellum Hiram Jenkins House this summer and the encroachment of MTSU on historic downtown Murfreesboro prompted a group of residents to get together to form a preservation group. The group also knows that heritage tourism and preservation makes economic sense.

“We are very deliberate because we want to be an organization that is recognized in Rutherford County as the go-to organization for information about historic preservation,” said Melinda Haines, a resident of downtown Murfreesboro and president of the Heritage Partnership. The group has established its mission, charter and bylaws and is working on obtaining federal nonprofit status.

No specific agenda has been set. The Heritage Partnership is striving to establish partnerships with individuals and organizations in the public and private sector. The group also wants to establish a grade-specific curriculum for 3rd through 12th grades to teach interest and pride in local history. It plans to identify the most endangered historic sites in the county and do what it can to preserve them by raising money and educating developers and city and county planners.

Membership fees will be low, between $10-15, to encourage membership. Anyone interested in joining the Heritage Partnership should send an e-mail including contact information to [email protected].

Haines decided to take the reins of the organization after seeing a MTSU 20-year expansion plan that included part of her neighborhood. She and her neighbors fought against the university and got their neighborhood removed. “I am concerned about Rutherford County losing its cultural identity by overbuilding and disregard for the heritage that exists here,” Haines said.

Heritage Partnership officers include Rob Sanders, vice president; Kay Morrow, secretary; and Aurelia Holden, treasurer. Board members are Larry Castelli, Beverly Jones, Rob Cliffton, Leonore Washington, Lorne McWatters, Margie Weatherford, Denise Carlton, Ernie Johns, Matthew Smitty, Leslee Dodd Karl and Steve Lund. Haines said the board was selected to represent a cross section of the county and talents.

Morrow led the fight to save the Jenkins House in early 2006. She got involved with the Heritage Partnership so hopefully Rutherford County won’t lose another historic site like the Jenkins House. “If we had an organization like this when the Jenkins House came up then there may have been a different outcome,” Morrow said. Board members, along with Steve Cates, Brian Hackett, Jason Goodrich and Mary Hoffschwelle, participated in writing the charter and bylaws. In its formative state, the Heritage Partnership heard speakers from the Tennessee Preservation Trust, MTSU, Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Members of the group were invited to discuss preservation planning in a panel discussion hosted by the city of Murfreesboro for the planning commission and board of zoning appeals training and continuing education seminar sponsored by the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning. Art Gowden, inspired by Rutherford County’s historic courthouse, designed the group’s logo. Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at [email protected].

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