Building plaques help tell the story of downtown Clarksville


CLARKSVILLE, TN (NOW CLARKSVILLE) – Anyone strolling through downtown may soon notice something new: plaques along buildings that tell the story of the city.

David Smith, a photographer who is part of the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council, said he came up with the idea while on a trip to Sylva, North Carolina.

“We saw what’s called the Sylva Heritage Walk,” Smith said, and it featured photos mounted on the display cases.

He liked the idea so much that 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 funded 38 plaques.

A dive into history

Then begins the search for photos. Kanervo said Smith and a few others searched for photos of what Franklin Street looked like 50 to 100 years ago.

“Thanks to the Montgomery County Archives, we were able to find the first 38. We’ll have 60 when we’re done,” she said.

They struck gold when they came across a folder containing tax records from 1954. “It contained the most complete group of photos downtown.”

Smith said it engaged people while they shopped downtown. “It’s also a way to teach them a bit about the history of Clarksville,” he said.

Plaques fill the streets

“First up was The Foundry, now called Cats on Commerce, right across from the Clarksville Police Station,” Smith said.

Smith designed the plates, then had them printed and formatted in Murfreesboro.

Montgomery County Archivist Jill Hastings-Johnson said they tried to look at Franklin Street as it looked in the 1880s, then match old photos with current buildings.

“Street numbers changed over the years and there was a fire,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to get back to old cards, old deeds, and old stationery with company logos. It is a most interesting project. »

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