Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nashville's Public Square In The 20th Century

by Debie Cox

R. L. Polk’s 1931 Nashville City Directory describes the Public Square as “Bounded by 1st and 3rd avs N at beginning of Victory Blvd and Cedar.”

The first major change of the Public Square in the 20th century was on the North side in 1935, when the eastern most block was leveled for the construction of a new City Market House. In 1953 several buildings on the northern end of East side were lost to the construction of the Victory Memorial Bridge.

In 1955 the Warner, Jungerman & Jeck and Zickler buildings and others on the West side were demolished, to make way for James Robertson Parkway. These buildings were in the block running north from Charlotte. The West side buildings running south from Charlotte to Deaderick, now site of a parking garage, were torn down in 1971. The AmSouth building, also on the West side, was built on a lot that until the early 1970’s was a block off the Square.

In 1970 many of the buildings lining the South side of the Square were torn down. By 1972 all of the South side was removed and buildings on Union Street, once a block away, became the southern perimeter of the Public Square. In 1975 the Reeves building on the North side came down.

In 1976 the remaining buildings on the East side, including the Neely Harwell Building, were demolished and the street on that side was closed. The street that ran in front of the Courthouse on the South side of the Square was closed and a parking lot was built from the front steps of the Courthouse out to Union Street.

In 1981 only a few old buildings on the Square, all on the North side, remained. These last hold-outs on the Public Square were torn down for the construction of the Criminal Justice Center, dedicated in October 1982.

Other than the courthouse the oldest building remaining today on the Public Square, built as the Nashville City Market in 1937, is the one which was the beginning of the end for the old Square. Known today as the Ben West Building, it is used by Metro General Sessions Courts.

Originally published June 28, 2005, edited September 3, 2008
Copyright © 2008, Debie Cox.

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