Friday, April 18, 2014

Meigs School

By Debie Oeser Cox

In his report to the School Board in 1881, Superintendent Samuel Caldwell detailed the over-crowding of schools. Vandavill School, the only school in East Nashville for African-American children, was especially overcrowded.  Caldwell suggested that the city government should purchase a lot in the East Nashville and construct a school to replace Vandavill, which was in a rented building at the corner of Spring and Wetmore Streets. A lot was soon purchased on Georgia Street (now Ramsey) and construction on the new school began.  The school lot was near the middle of the block of what is now the 700 block of Ramsey Street. 

Meigs School - Artwork of Nashville

The new Meigs School opened in 1883 and Superintendent Caldwell reported to the board that the school had been named in honor of  Return Jonathan Meigs, a member of the first school board of the Nashville City Schools. Meigs was born in Kentucky in 1801 and moved to Nashville in 1834. He was the Recording Secretary of the Tennessee Historical Society and the first Tennessee State Librarian.  He was a Trustee of the University of Nashville and the Tennessee School for the Blind.  

Annual Report 1883-84 Superintendent Nashville City Schools

Meigs also served in the Tennessee State Senate, 27th General Assembly.  Because of his strong Union leanings, Meigs left the South with the outbreak of the U. S. Civil War.  In 1863 he was appointed, by President Lincoln, as clerk of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, a position he held until his death in 1891.

The cost of the lot and new two story building was $13,500 and had space for 600 children.  The beginning enrollment was about 400, in grades first through fourth.  R. S. White was appointed as Principal. Mr. White had previously taught at Knowles Street School.  In subsequent years, additional grades were added, through the eighth grade.

1884 Nashville City Directory

In 1886, Mrs. Lizzie Porter (click to learn more), wife of Sandy Porter, attempted to enroll her sons, Tolbert Calvin and James Rice Porter at the Nashville High School, as there was no high school for black students.  The school board refused to admit the Porter’s sons.  The efforts of the Porter family, encouraged other black parents to appear at the high school to enroll their children.  All were refused.  This caused a public outcry, and in mid-September well attended meetings were held to pursue the matter with the school board.  A petition was passed among the crowd asking the school board to act. 

The school board met and adopted a motion to reorganize Meigs School so as to meet the requirements of a high school, giving Meigs the distinction of being the first high school for African American students in Nashville.  Grades nine and ten were added immediately and the students who wanted to attend the new high school were told to report to the second floor of the Meigs School on Monday, September 20th, 1886.  Both of Lizzie and Sandy Porter's sons enrolled.   Tolbert C. Porter was in the first graduating class from Meigs, in June of 1888.  James Rice Porter graduated from Meigs High School in June of 1889.

Mr. D. N. Crosthwait, who was previously assigned as a principal at Belleview School, became the first teacher in the high school grades. The same text books that had been used at Fogg High School were used by students at Meigs.  Among the courses offered were Algebra, Geometry, Latin, Physical Geography, General History, Natural Philosophy, Music and Drawing.

In 1896, Pearl High School was opened for black students in Nashville.  Meigs once again became a grade school with classes for students from grades one to six. 

Meigs School was rebuilt in 1934 for a cost of nearly $36,000.  Apparently the old school building had been damaged in the 1933 tornado as the building funds came from the Tornado Bond fund. As years passed grades were added and Meigs became a first through ninth grade school.  Additions were made to the building in the 1950's. In 1956 the School Board purchased properties at 701, 703, 705, 707 and 709 Ramsey St and 107 and 109 North 7th Street to expand the campus and to allow for another addition.  After the second addition in 1957, Meigs School spanned the entire block between North 7th and North 8th Streets.  

Photo Credit - Metro Nashville Archives

In 1958 Meigs became a high school again, adding a grade per year with 1963 being the first year for graduation.  The last class graduated from Meigs High School in 1969.  In 1970, only grades eight and nine were taught at Meigs.

In 1983, the Metro Nashville School system took a new direction when three academic magnet schools were opened.  One of the magnet schools, based on a liberal arts education, was placed in the Caldwell School building at Meridian and Foster Streets.  In 1985 this magnet school was moved a few blocks away to the Meigs building. Meigs Magnet Middle School serves grades fifth through eighth. Enrollment in Meigs is based on academic achievement, including above average TCAP scores in math and reading. Students hoping to attend Meigs Magnet, if eligible, submit an application and are assigned a random number.  There are always more applicants than slots for students, which results in a long waiting list for the school.   

In 2001, construction of a new building for Meigs students began, replacing the 1934 structure.  The school was completed by the start of the school year in 2004, and can accommodate 700 pupils.  The school is rated as a Reward School by the Tennessee Board of Education, scoring in the top 5% of schools in Tennessee, for overall student achievement.  In 2013, Meigs Magnet was one of four Tennessee schools, honored by the U. S. Dept. of Education, as a Blue Ribbon school.  The honor was awarded because of the high level of academic achievement by Meigs students. 

Annual reports of the Superintendents of Nashville Public Schools, 1857 – 1946. 
A Bicentennial Chronicle, Metropolitan Public Schools, 1976
Metro Nashville Archives -  Verticle Files, Meigs School.
Metro Nashville Archives  - Metro Schools, Board of Education school property files.
Meigs Magnet School Wikipedia - - Nashville City Directories

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dr. Cleo Miller, East Nashville


Most everyone who lived in East Nashville and Inglewood from the 1930's through the 1970's knew the name Cleo Miller.  Dr. Miller gave much to the community in which he worked most of his life and where he lived in his younger years.  

Cleo M. Miller was born in 1903 at Dechard, Franklin County, Tennessee.  His parents, Joseph Edward Miller and Aurora Thelma Woll, were married on June 12, 1902 in Franklin County.
His father died soon after Cleo  was born.  His mother brought him to Nashville as teen, perhaps so that he would have access to good schools.   Aurora Miller soon found a job at Lebecks department store as a salesperson.  Aurora left Lebecks after a few years and went on to work for many years at Cain Sloan department store.  Listed in the 1920 census,  Aurora and Cleo were living at 1621 Holly Street in East Nashville.  Late in 1920 Aurora married Elmore Hill.  Their son Elmore, Jr. was born in 1922.  

Cleo graduated from Vanderbilt in the early 1920's and enrolled in the medical school there.  Cleo played baseball during his med school years and possibly in his undergrad years as well.  He was team captain in 1926 and he held the position of catcher.

Cleo's half brother, Elmore Hill, Jr., graduated from Duncan Preparatory School and Vanderbilt University, just as leo had done.  He went on to University of Louisville Dental School.  
Aurora's second husband died in 1935 and in 1940 she was living on Scott Ave in East Nashville with her 18 year old son Elmore.   In 1971, a local newspaper featured Aurora in a story about her 90th birthday party.  She did not believe in telling her age but had 9 candles on her cake, plus one to grow on.  She was still living in East Nashville on North 12th St.   She celebrated her birthday with her 94 year old sister Katie and other family.  She was a member of City Road Methodist Church and played piano for bible classes there and at Hobson Methodist Church. Aurora died in 1972.  

Cleo Miller married Kathryn Cotten soon after he graduated from medical school.  By the time Dr. Miller built the home, Ivy Hall, in Inglewood, the couple had two sons, and a daughter was born the next year.  The beautiful Tudor Revival home was built on property that had been part of the Inglewood Golf Club. Today the home is on the National Register of Historic Properties.  The family lived in the house until the early 40's, when Dr. Miller entered military service to support the war effort.  His family traveled with him during his time in the service.  At the end of the war, the Miller's moved into a home on Belle Meade Boulevard and never returned to Ivy Hall.  They moved to the Belle Meade area to be closer to Montgomery Bell Academy, where their sons Jimmy and Jack would attend.

Long after he had moved to the west side of Davidson County, Dr. Miller was a welcome and busy presence in East Nashville and Inglewood.   He worked as a physician and surgeon in East Nashville from 1930 until 1971.  He began his first medical practice in a home at 1308 Stratton Avenue, with Dr. Young Haley.  He and Kathryn lived in an apartment at the office for the first year or so.  Miller Clinic, which he found in 1937, was the nearest medical facility for East Nashville residents. It was a white frame building with three physicians and facilities for surgery and inpatient treatment.  The building was added onto many times and more doctors joined the practice.  In 1977 a new building was erected and Miller Clinic became the Miller Medical Group with more than twenty doctors.  Dr. Glenn Hammonds and Dr. Russell Ward, both on staff at Miller Medical Group for many years, grew up in East Nashville and attended grade school and high school with some of their patients.  Pediatricians, Dr. Philip Elliott and Dr. Dewey Nemec are remembered very well by those who grew up in East Nashville.   Dr. Miller remained as director of the Miller Medical Group until 1971 when he resigned because of illness.   Miller Medical served the East Nashville community for about 60 years, well into the 1990's.  

Dr. Miller added a small hospital to the clinic in 1962.  This building was eventually replaced and became became a full service hospital.  In 1968, Hospittal Corporation of American purchased Miller Hospital and the name was changed to Edgefield Hospital.

Dr. Miller was a member of the Men's Club at both Isaac Litton High School and East Nashville High School.  For many years, Dr. Miller was the team doctor for the Isaac Litton football team.  He was involved in many community organizations, both in East Nashville and across the city.  He was chosen, in 1965, as Man of the Year, but the East Nashville Exchange Club.  

Dr. Cleo Miller had a lifelong love of the game of baseball and athletics in general.   His interest in athletics, led him to be team doctor for the Nashville Vols baseball team.  He was also team doctor for the highly acclaimed women's basketball program at the Nashville Business College.  In 1959, a group of fourteen Nashville businessmen, which included Eddy Arnold, Herschel Greer, Dr. Cleo Miller and his son Jimmy Miller, purchased the Nashville Vols. The group formed Vols Inc., and sold shares at $5 each in an effort to save the team.  Both of the Millers was served on the board for Vols, Inc. in 1959.  The effort failed and the Vols were soon disbanded but  Cleo Miller continued to support baseball in Nashville.  He and son Jimmy Miller were long time members of the Nashville Oldtimers Baseball Association.

Dr. Cleo Miller died on January 7, 1973 after a long illness.  His name is still remembered, fondly and with respect, by many Nashvillians.



Nashville's Inglewood, Crystal Hill Jones, Naomi C. Manning, Melanie J. Meadows. Arcadia Publishing 2009.

Baseball in Nashville, Skip Nipper.  Arcadia Publishing 2007.

The Congressional Record, Vol. 119, February 5, 1973.

Register of Vanderbilt University, 1921 -1922. Vanderbilt 1922.

Litton School Zone, Betty Hadley.  Nashville History Blog, 2010. 

Photograph of Aurora Woll Miller Hall from Piper-Wolf family tree,

Nashville City Directories,

United States Census Records,

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Downtown

Written by Frank Tuttle after viewing the following old photo on What I Remember about Old Nashville, back when.  Frank gave permission to copy his post here. 

I cannot stop looking at this wonderful memory regenerating photo and noticing the trolly or street car rails. Before starting grade school at Woodmont in 1946 I spent time exploring the streets around my Dad's National Cash Register, Typewriter & Army Surplus Store on 8th ave N just down from the old Sears Store. His phone number was 50722
"My downtown" began around 1944 and I saw no street cars, in fact I did not know what a real live street car was, but there were (train to me) tracks still in the city streets. 

While standing on the front seat behind my Dad's guarding right shoulder in a war time worn 1941 Oldsmobile, I would hear his growling voice while dodging the streets full of clanky wild driving olive green Ford Mail trucks and when our car got caught in the rail ruts causing him to fight the vibrating steering wheel he would utter ( lots of uttering) something like "those _ _ ruts make the car shimmy" and "this _ _ car needs king pins". 

Everything everybody smelled like "they were supposed" to smell, the women, the alley, the street, the cars, the busses, the little spaghetti Domadios ? Store
(editor's note: Probably Anthony Dematteo grocery), the bananas hanging from the ceiling, the shoe store, the 8th Ave monkeys in the cages, Martin's hobby shop, even my Dad ( tobacco, cleaning fluid, sweat, hair oil).
To me most everything was usually smelled first and seen later. After all, I was way less than three feet short at the time.

During that period Dad somehow acquired an almost new looking 1942(?) dark blue Chrysler Saratoga with " Balloon " tires. Cars were licensed by weight and that Chrysler was an eight cylinder "heavy" and so he got to pay extra to have that coveted letter "D" on his license plate. One night while heading west towards home as we were crossing the Church Street viaduct and passing the Nashville Electric Building, he poked me with his finger and pointed to the speedometer..the needle was on 100. Not sure about in the city, but there were no speed limits on most highways until sometimes in the 1950s and 100 mph seemed to be 100 mph and nothing more than that. Death was Death during those times, be it at home in America or going off to war to "wherever".... live now not later!..

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sears & Roebuck Store - Church Street

Church Street at 8th Ave. No.  Built 1935/36 for Sears & Roebuck.

Pictured here, is one of a few remaining art deco structures in Nashville. It is located in the 700 block of Church Street at the corner of 8th Avenue North.  Built for and first occupied by Sears & Roebuck, in 1936, the structure is on the site of the proposed federal courthouse.  It is scheduled to be demolished when funds become available to build a new courthouse on the site.

The land on the southeast corner of Church Street at 8th Avenue North was a part of lot 150, in the original town of Nashville, surveyed and plated in 1784.  John Boyd was the first owner of the lot, granted to him by the Commissioners of the Town of Nashville.  The street names were different then, Church Street being Spring Street and 8th Ave. was Spruce Street.   In 1896 Victor E. Shwab, and his sister Augusta Shwab Dickel, bought a narrow lot at the corner of Church Street and 8th, where the old Sears building now stands.  Augusta was the widow of George Dickel.  She inherited her husband's controlling share of the George Dickel Tennessee Whisky operation at his death in 1894.  She and her brother, as partners, began to invest in property.  Within a few years of the first purchase on Church Street, several adjoining parcels were bought, including the lot where the Paramount Theater stood.  Shwab helped to manage the business affairs of his sister and at her death in 1916, he took control of the Dickel distillery as well as Augusta's real estate holdings. Shwab died in 1924 and the lots on Church Street passed to his heirs. 

In 1935, the family and heirs of Victor Emanuel Shwab, entered into an agreement with the Sears & Roebuck Company to erect a building at the corner of Church St. and 8th.  Sears had located in Nashville, on the northwest corner of Broad Street, about 1928 and had outgrown the space. The Shwab heirs agreed to provide a five story and basement mercantile building, with a mezzanine floor, before the beginning of the lease term in April of 1936.

The building was to have a fire sprinkler system, two passenger elevators and one freight elevator and an air conditioning system on the basement and first floors.  The lease period was to be for twenty years from April 1, 1936 through April 1, 1956.

M. Bradley collection

Sears had an option to break the lease midway, in 1946.  They chose to stay on, until the end of the lease in 1956, when Sears moved into a new building, a few blocks away, on Lafayette Street at 7th Ave. So.

The Shwab heirs continued to own the building on Church Street, leasing to various tenants.  In 1957 National Stores occupied the building.  About 1968 a Ben Franklin store was there.

In 1969 the Shwab heirs sold the Paramount property adjoining the Sears building to Martin Theaters.  In that same year, the Sears building was sold, to Paul and Shirley Gold, owners of a local jewelry company.  The company founded by Paul Gold and Dave Silver, had been located in the old Tinsley Department Store building at 7th and Church for a number of years.  After the purchase, the Gold's moved their business, Gold & Silver Jewelers of Nashville, to the opposite end of the block, to the old Sears Building.   For many years the old Sears store has served the State of Tennessee as an office building.  The wrecking ball has not arrived, as yet.  However the fate of this building seems to be sealed.  Go take a look at one of Nashville's fine old ladies before she is gone.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Remember When, do you? by Jimmy Morrissey

My friend Jimmy Morrissey lived at 1008 Meridian Street for many years.  His parents moved there in the 1920's and the family owned it until the early 1990's.  Jimmy typed a list of memories to share and handed out copies at the last Glenn School/Northeast Nashville reunion.

I  Remember When, do you?
Prepared by Jimmy Morrissey

1. When making a phone call I heard, “number please” from an operator.

2. When Lucky Strike Green went to war and did not return.

3. There was a Sycamore Lodge in Shelby Park.

4. I could ride the trolley car to town for 5 cents. I would catch it in front of Caplans department store located at the corner of Wilburn and Meridian. 
Caplans 5&10 and Roxy Theater.  North Edgefield Remembered.

5. The trolley car transfer station located between 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave.,  parallel to Deadrick St.                                          

Walter Williams Metro Archives

6.  I rode to High School on the bus for 3 cents.
North Edgefield Remembered

7.  Saturday afternoon movie was 12 cents.
North Edgefield Remembered

8.  Never heard of bottled water for sale in a grocery store.

9. Gasoline was 25 cents per gallon.

10. Cigarette was 20 cents per pack.

11. Most major department stores located on Church Street.
Metro Archives

12. TV, two letters in the alphabet.

13. Home Air conditioning, opening windows and doors.

14. Auto air conditioning, rolling down the car windows.

15. Banana split or milk shake was 15 cents.

16. Lower Broad and 1st Ave. flooded almost every year.
Metro Archives

17. Walking to the middle of the Cumberland River when it was frozen.

L to R, Ernest Oeser, Roy Buck and Robert Oeser, Jan. 27, 1940

18. Loaf of bread was 10 cents.

19. One pound of bacon was 19 cents.

20.  25 or 50 pound block of ice delivered to your home ice box.

21. A piece of paper, pencil and your brain was a computer.

22. All major movies theaters located down town.
Metro Archives

23. Grimes, Gilberts and Krystal Hamburgers  located on the Square.
Metro Archives

24. Coke was 5 cents.

25. Ice cream cone was 5 cents.

26. Krystal hamburgers was 5 cents.

27. Krystal Hamburgers, located on Church St., between 6th Ave. and Capitol Blvd.

28. Tony the Chili King located on Deadrick St. Between  3rd Ave. and 4th Ave,
Nashville Banner

29. Circus came to town near Centennial Park and at Sulpher Dell Ball Park.
Facebook Metro Archives

30. Cool meant the weather had turned chilly.

31. I walked to school and church.

32. Woolworth and Kress located on 5th Ave. between Church St. and Union St.
Metro Archives

33. Candyland  located at the corner of  6th Ave. and Church St.

34. Sears Roebuck located at the corner of  8th Ave. and Church St.
M. Bradley collection

35. Montgomery Ward located on Union St. between  5th Ave. and 6th Ave.

36. Cain-Sloan located at the corner of 5th Ave. and Church St.

Metro Archives

37. Phillips & Burtorff  located on 3rd Ave. between Church St, and Union St.

38. Burke’s located on Church St. between 5th Ave. and 4th Ave.

39. Loveman’s located at the corner of 5th Ave. and Union St.

40. Western Auto located in the downtown area (maybe at the corner of 5th Ave. and Deadrick)

41. Where the Nashville Court House is presently located there was a red court house building. 
      During the spring and summer farmers would bring their produce to the square on Friday
      night and Saturday and park around the court house and sell their produce. This practice
      stopped when the new court house was built.
Mike Slate

42. Yes, the Arcade is still located in the same place, and Walgreen’s is still at the corner of the
      Arcade and  5th Ave.
Yelp - Carson C.

43. VJ Day,  that was an extremely happy day. Church St. was packed with people and cars.
      Gasoline rationing ended. If you had an “A” stamp, you received 4 gallons of gas per week.

44.  You would have to travel 7,000 miles to Bavaria, Germany to see a grown man in short pants.

45.  National Stores located at the corner of Deadrick St. and 3rd Ave.
46.  I played marbles under the plum tree in my back yard.

47.  On summer nights we played kick the can under the street light. 

48. Every Christmas Harvey’s had a nativity scene placed in front of the Parathion.
Facebook Metro Archives

49. At Christmas almost everyone had a live cedar tree for a Christmas tree.

50. Christmas shopping did not begin until after Thanksgiving.