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Heritage Foundation moves closer to calling the Old, Old Jail home

The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County recently presented a proposal to Franklin city officials that will allow it to purchase the “Old, Old Jail” on Bridge Street.

The Heritage Foundation was asked to vacate their leased section of the Five Points Post Office by July after the City of Franklin signed an agreement with FirstBank in which they will renovate and lease the building until at least 2033. Although the timing wasn’t exactly to their liking, the Heritage Foundation was going to have to move eventually because it had outgrown the space several years ago.

According to Nancy Williams, director of the Downtown Franklin Association of the Heritage Foundation, the organization is looking for an interim location until a permanent one, such as the Old, Old Jail, can be secured.

“This is an opportunity for the building to be restored and put back to use and it’s another partnership opportunity,” said Eric Stuckey, Franklin city administrator. “It’s an opportunity to make it back into a viable building, which it hasn’t been for decades, and put it back into use by an organization that does a lot to embrace Franklin’s history.”

The Heritage Foundation estimates it will cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to bring the building up to usable standards.

Many are asking, why spend a half million dollars fixing a building in that condition, not to mention that it’s located in a flood plain.

“It’s a great location,” Williams said. “The building is in the Historic Downtown District and the history of the community needs to be saved. The space fits our needs and we think we can make it an asset for the community.

“It’s one of the most trashed buildings I’ve ever seen on the inside, but we didn’t want it to go the way of Fleming Hall.”

Fleming Hall was a building on the old Battle Ground Academy Campus the county tried to restore but had to demolish.

About two years ago, the city put the Old, Old Jail property out for bid but didn’t receive a viable proposal.

“Eventually it will cause the city to have to make a large investment without clear direction,” Stuckey said. “We have a lot of historic places in need of renovation and maintenance. Partnering with the Heritage Foundation is another way for the city to facilitate restoration.”

Cyril Stewart, president of the Heritage Foundation and an architect had the distressed building inspected to determine if it was salvageable. According to the findings, the building is “In an advanced state of disrepair.” The roof, mechanical and electrical systems are fully deteriorated beyond repair and windows, doors and other elements will require major repair. Lead paint, mold and asbestos are present throughout the building, he said.

Renovation plans, which have already been drawn and were a part of the proposal include a community conference room and plenty of walls to hang the more than 12,000 scanned copies of historic photos the Heritage Foundation possess.

“This renovation isn’t like the [Franklin Theatre],” Williams said.

The cells on the second floor are already gone and a lot of the “jailness” has been lost, however some fixtures have survived and will find a new home in the building.

“It will have an industrial look – an art deco design with clean lines,” Williams said. “We have a lot of people borrow our conference room. We think we could have a place where up to 40 people could gather.”

The exterior will remain the same with mostly cosmetic changes.

“The end product would be a project greatly benefiting the community,” the proposal states.


The Old, Old Jail

In a land swap between Franklin and the county about five years ago, the city received the Old, Old Jail and the Five Points Post Office building and in exchange for undeveloped property in rural west Williamson County called the Springs Property.

The Old, Old Jail, built around 1940 to replace the 1910 era “Old, Old, Old Jail” next door, was used as a jail until the 1970s when the “Old Jail” was built to replace it. That jail, which was closed in 1989 when the current jail opened, was demolished several years ago.

After the closing of the “Old, Old Jail” in the 1970s, it was used for storage by the county until the roof began to leak and building deterioration deemed it unusable.

“The idea of the concept was well received,” Stuckey said. “The city is a good steward of history and looks for opportunities to make a good investment in the city’s past. We hope to have follow up discussions and a more specific proposal to bring before the board sometime in April.”


Posted on: 3/21/2013


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