by Debie Oeser Cox
all rights reserved
|Map of the City of Nashville and Vicinity, Wilbur F. Foster 1877, LOC|
Many old maps and plats of lower East Nashville/Edgefield area, show Shelby's pond in an area near the current streets of South Second and Crutcher Street. The area, just across the Cumberland from the downtown, and south of Shelby Avenue, was known as Shelby Bottoms, long before the Shelby Bottoms of today. John Shelby's land covered an area bound on the west and south by the Cumberland River, and on the north by Main Street and on the east by 8th/9th Streets. The pond, which covered 16 acres at one time, was in the southeastern part of his land, near the river.
|Chancery Court Plan Bk 1, Sheet 64. Shelby's 2nd Addition. Shelby's Pond, ca 1850|
In the early years, the pond belonged to the Shelby family. It was probably used as a watering place for stock and for fishing. The Shelby's subdivided their land in the 1850's and sold it over the next 20 years.
The pond was described as a place of beauty at times, and a nuisance and public health risk at other times. In 1888 the city health officer wanted the pond drained for health reasons. In fact, there seemed to be a proposal every couple of years to drain the pond.
|Nashville Union and American, Jul 29, 1873|
It was also a place of tragedy. Several persons drowned in the pond. Most were children.
|The Nashville American, Jan 5, 1884|
It was a place of recreation for the neighborhood in the latter half of the 19th century. In the winter, when the pond was frozen over it was used for ice skating. William Webb, in William Waller's, Nashville in the 1890's, described the pond.
"From the foot of Shelby Avenue, extending over a large area of Shelby Bottom, was a huge pond known as Shelby Pond. This was where all the skating took place, and most any cold afternoon and well into the night, with two or three big bonfires, burning on the edge of the pond, you would find hundreds of skaters of all ages."
In the other seasons, it was a favorite for fishing. When migrating ducks gathered at the pond in the fall, it became a neighborhood hunting spot. It was not a favored as swimming hole, as the water became stagnant in the dry hot summer months. The pond was probably spring fed. In spite of many attempts to drain the water away, it would fill up again.
Not much mention of Shelby Pond, in news stories after 1900. The area along the river bank became increasingly industrial. The pond no longer covered the amount of area that it did in the 19th century. A 1932 topo map shows that the southern section of the pond is dry. The map has a pond near the Shelby Avenue Bridge that is oval in shape and may have been a sort of reservoir.
The Shelby bottoms property was subdivided and changed hands many times. Tracing the deeds is almost impossible. It was part of the D. B. Cooper subdivision that was filed in 1890. Cooper had purchased the property from Shelby family heirs. In the early 20th century, W. T. Hardison purchased several tracts in the old river bottom, some of which included what had been the southern part of the pond. He transferred the property to his son Humphrey Hardison. The Hardison's had a building supply company located on the banks of the Cumberland in the area south of Shelby Avenue.
I had almost given up on finding more about the pond. Then in 1936, it was reported in the Tennessean that a young boy, Henry Clay Rains, had drowned in Hardison's Pond in East Nashville. With more research, I was soon convinced that this was what remained of the old Shelby Pond. By the 1940's Hardison's Pond was mentioned in news stories on a regular basis. It was a called Hardison Lake as well and covered several acres. For a fee, a person could fish all day. The lake was stocked with bass, bream, crappie and channel catfish. It was not as large as the original Shelby Pond, but still large enough to cover several acres. The lake was bordered by Davidson St on the south and Crutcher on the north and ran west to east from South Second St to South Fourth St.
|State of Tennesse, 1952, https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/Hardison's Lake|
Robert Eller, a state game warden, operated the private fishing lake. Fishing continued there through the 1950's and likely up to the time that the Silliman Evans Bridge was built across the river. Much of the Hardison's Lake can be seen in a ca 1961 photo, showing the progress of the bridge construction.
|Silliman Evans Bridge Construction, 1961, Metro Nashville Archives, Hardison Lake just west of the bridge.|
The lake was filled in the early 1960's and became the property of the Steiner-Liff Metal Recycling Company. A plat of that property shows the outline of the Hardison's Lake and is labeled old Hardison property. It belongs to Steiner family members today.
|Steiner-Liff property in East Nashville, 6791-172, 1983. The area shaded in pink was Hardison's Lake.|
Scroll down to see news clipping about Shelby's and Hardinson's Pond.
|Republican Banner, Dec 23, 1870|
|Daily American, Nov 13, 1878.|
|Daily American, Nov 1, 1878|
|Daily American, Jan 16, 1893|
|The Tennessean, Apr 11, 1945|
|The Tennessean, Oct. 5, 1958|
The map above is a current google map. The area where Hardison's Lake was once located is shaded blue.