Building plaques help tell history of downtown Clarksville
CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Anyone taking a stroll downtown may soon notice something new: plaques along the sides of buildings that tell the history of the city.
David Smith, a photographer who is with the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council, said he happened upon the idea when he took a trip to Sylva, North Carolina.
“We saw what is called Sylva Heritage Walk,” Smith said, and it featured photos mounted on the storefronts.
He loved the idea so much, he decided to bring it back to Clarksville and see if the AHDC would be receptive to something similar here. AHDC Executive Director Ellen Kanervo loved the idea and discussed it with local business owners. Five donors provided funding for 38 plaques.
A dive into history
Then began the search for photos. Kanervo said Smith and a few others dug for pictures of what Franklin Street used to look like 50 to 100 years ago.
“Thanks to Montgomery County Archives, we were able to find the first 38. We will have 60 by the time we are finished,” she said.
They hit gold when they happened upon a file that held tax records from 1954. “It had the most complete group of photos of the downtown area.”
Smith said this gets people engaged while they are shopping downtown. “It’s also a way to teach them a little about the history of Clarksville,” he said.
Plaques hit the streets
“The first one placed was The Foundry, which is now called Cats on Commerce, right across from the Clarksville Police Station,” Smith said.
Smith designed the plaques and then had them printed and formatted in Murfreesboro.
Montgomery County Archivist Jill Hastings-Johnson said they have been trying to look at Franklin Street as it was back in the 1880s and then matching old photos with the current buildings.
“The street numbers have changed over the years, and there was a fire,” Johnson said. “We are trying to look back at old maps, old deeds and old stationery with company logos. It has been a most interesting project.”
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