Category: Nonfiction

#T-b-t-ing with lithography!

By , May 25, 2015
One of the lithographs created at #TBT with the Wilson Collection

One of the lithographs created at #TBT with the Wilson Collection

For the last Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection (in the Teen Area), we did a craft that was more personal to the Wilson Collection. As I’ve discussed before, the Wilson Collection is a unique collection not only because of what it includes but also because of the type of illustrations created. Each book was specially designed and created, this includes the method of printing that was used for the illustrations.

The various methods include water color, wood cuts, line drawings, or any number of other types of illustrations. But the type I chose to highlight was lithography, because it is a popular method of printing within the Wilson Collection and simply because it looks cool.

Lithography = the process of printing from a plane surface (as a smooth stone or metal plate) on which the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area ink-repellent.

This sounds complicated but it is really not, and it can be done on different surfaces as mentioned – either stone or metal plate. Or in this case for the Throwback Thursday craft, cheaper materials can be used such as paper plates or Styrofoam. It is also a printing practice that has been around for centuries and is still used today to produce artwork, newspapers, posters, books, maps – you name it!

Here’s how you can create your very own lithograph:

Step 1: Collect your materials -

  • Styrofoam plates
  • Scissors
  • Chop sticks or mechanical pencils (we used mechanical pencils and they worked great)
  • Paint (washable is best because a mess will ensue)
  • Foam brushes
  • Paper

Step 2: We cut the lid from the plate to provide a flatter surface to work with. The photo to the right demonstrates this.

Step 3: Choose what picture you would like to draw; some people drew freehand while others used stencils. Begin drawing your picture as deeply as you can into the plate without poking holes. Again, mechanical pencils without the lead is great, as well as chopsticks. Chopsticks actually provide a wider cut and defines the picture better.

Step 4: Now you can paint! We coated our pictures with at least 2-3 layers of paint to be sure every part was covered.

Step 5: Flip your plate over and place it onto a clean piece of paper. Press down for a few seconds to let the paint sink in.

Step 6: Lift your plate and you are left with a pretty awesome lithograph! And it’ll look like Monet or Picasso did it!


And now, check out a few of the books from the Wilson Collection that have pretty awesome lithographs:

The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Limited Edition Collection: 1949
Illustrator/Artist: Edward Ardizzone
Type of Art: Colored Lithographs


Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves    Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves    Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves


Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontё
Limited Edition Collection: 1993
Illustrator/Artists: Balthus
Types of Art: Lithographs










Wuthering Heights    Wuthering Heights


Porgy & Bess by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin 
Arion Press: 2013
Illustrator/Artist: Kara Walker
Types of Art: 16 B&W lithographs

Porgy & Bess    Porgy & Bess    Porgy & Bess

For more detailed information about this unique book from Arion, or to see more pictures, click the following link to go to the catalog page for Porgy & Bess on the Arion Press website.


Biotherm by Frank O’Hara
Arion Press: 1990
Illustrator/Artist: Jim Dine
Types of Art: 42 lithographic prints

Biotherm    Biotherm    Biotherm

For more detailed information about this unique book from Arion, or to see more pictures, click the following link to go to the catalog page for Biotherm on the Arion Press website.

The Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection program ended for the school year in May. It will begin again in September, recurring every second Thursday in the Teen area. #Tbt with the Wilson Collection is a program for Teens, but viewing the books is not. The Wilson Collection in the East Reading Room is open to anyone to check out during regular Library hours. It is located on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library (next to the Fine Arts area).

If you are interested in viewing these books or any others individually, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for an even more special Off-the-Shelf post next month!

Superheroes of the Civil Rights Movement

By , May 22, 2015

March book coverWho do you think of when you hear the word “superhero?” Spider Man? Wonder Woman? The Hulk? How about someone like John Lewis?

Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement are superheroes, too. They may not have Spidey senses or a magic lasso, but their fight for justice and equality in the 1950s and 60s is no less powerful.

As a leader of the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins Mr. Lewis showed courage and strength and has continued to advocate for justice throughout his career, including in his current role as Congressman for Georgia’s Fifth District. Details about his experiences and inspiration can be found in his memoirs, March – a trilogy of graphic novels that tell his story.

When asked why he chose the medium of graphic novels he responded,

“I wanted to make it plain, clear, and simple for another generation to understand not just my story, but the story of a long and ongoing struggle to bring about justice in America. To make America better for young children, but also for teachers and another generation to feel what happened and how it happened in the long struggle to redeem the soul of America.”

March: Book One and March: Book Two are available for checkout from the library. Read them with your child for Summer Challenge and take a field trip to The Civil Rights Room.

Want to extend the discussion at home? Here are some suggestions:

Book Discussion
Pick out a teaching moment and have an in-depth discussion. For example, pages 50-52 of Book One explain how hard John Lewis fought for his education.

Read the pages together and discuss the importance and privileges of education while negotiating parameters around your child’s own values. Ask:

  • Why is school so important to Mr. Lewis? Is school important to you? Why or why not?
  • What do you think about Mr. Lewis disobeying his parents?
  • What kind of things are important to you and why?

Activity: What Would You Do?
Encourage your child to be their own superhero. Print out this activity sheet and ask them to draw what they would do in the situation. Discuss the image and reinforce the nonviolent approach taken by Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of the Civil Rights leaders. When they’ve finished their comic, ask them to tell their story and follow-up with a couple questions:

  • Have you ever been in a situation like this? What role were you in? How did it make you feel or how do you think it would make you feel?
  • Is it sometimes hard to stand up for yourself and/or others? Why?
  • What should you remember in situations like this one?

Finally, reiterate John Lewis’ message of the importance of speaking up for what you believe is right.

John Lewis Quote 1

Book review: The Making of a Chef

By , May 12, 2015

The Making of a Chef
By Michael Ruhlman

And now I want to go to culinary school. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and I really have no desire to start working every night and holiday in a hot, sweaty kitchen being yelled at by some Gordon Ramsey wanna be because my risotto’s al dente.

And yet.

In the late 1990′s writer Michael Ruhlman convinced the Culinary Institute of America (aka the CIA) to let him into their kitchens as a pseudo-student, in order to write about what it was like to attend the CIA and become “a chef.” I happened across this book, along with its follow up The Soul of a Chef when browsing food books on hoopla. We have the audio version of both of these, as well print copies.

Ruhlman started in Skills I with all the new incoming students, learning how to hold a knife, how to efficiently set up your mise en place, and discovering how many versions of brown sauce really exist. After that, he bounced around, leaving his classmates behind to experience different aspects of what the CIA both offers and requires of their chefs. I wish he had stayed in pastry a little while longer. I’ll never understand why a lot of chefs don’t like to make desserts. Come on people, that is my jam! (get it…) If I were a chef, it would totally be of the pastry variety. I would have loved to be friends with the chef instructor who had dedicated his life to making the best bread. (I’d probably also weigh 900 lbs, but hey, everything has a trade off.)

I liked Ruhlman’s books because they gave an honest look at a challenging profession. It was a little weird that they were both divided into three completely different sections (especially The Soul of a Chef), but it was fun when Michael Symon popped up. I am a big fan of his. The audio reader didn’t quite get all the terms pronounced properly but if you read the book book, you’ll be ok.

Ruhlman has since gone on to write several other food books which I am interested in exploring, including writing The French Laundry cookbook with Thomas Keller. He’s been a judge on Iron Chef America and I didn’t even realize I already knew who he was until I saw his picture on his website.

So if you are looking for new food books or you’re curious about the CIA, check these guys out.

Then cook something yummy and share it with us, ok?

Happy reading cooking…

:) Amanda





Hume-Fogg History

By , May 11, 2015
Individual photos of senior class

Fogg School Class of 1902.

As the school year comes to a close, many families are thinking about more than just summer vacation. Thousands of seniors throughout Davidson County will graduate this month and move on to new adventures. Some of those students will graduate from Hume-Fogg High School which has a rich history of educating Nashvillians.

In 1855, the Hume School opened as the first public school in Nashville. Over the next several decades, the school grew and eventually merged with the Fogg School in 1912 in a new building. This remains the site of Hume-Fogg Magnet High School today. The school has seen many changes over the last 160 years, including a technical and vocational school, a comprehensive high school, and industrial training for adults during World War II. The records of Hume-Fogg are housed at the school and the Nashville Public Library.

Program cover

The commencement program for the 1900 graduation ceremony at Fogg High School, founded in 1875

Class photo, 1897

The Junior A class of the Fogg School in 1897.

Inside of a program

Program for the 1933 Commencement of Hume-Fogg High School, held at the Ryman Auditorium.

Diploma and course list

1933 Diploma from Hume-Fogg High School, note the classes listed on the left including salesmanship, commercial law, and military training







































Aircraft building instructions

War Production Training Program Template. During WWII, Hume-Fogg hosted technical training for adults teaching skills to help the war effort. This template gives basic instructions on creating sheet metal for an aircraft.




















For more information about Hume-Fogg High School, visit the Special Collections to explore the collection or visit Hume Fogg’s website.

- Amber


Book review: Murder!

By , May 4, 2015

The Golden Age of MurderThe Golden Age of Murder
by Martin Edwards

Although this is not a mystery, as the subtitle suggests, it still has lots of pithy anecdotes about the original members of the Detection Club, whose ranks included Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton.  Edwards also does a great job of describing numerous detective novels of the period and giving just enough details to make you want to track down the books (but not enough to spoil the endings).



Art of the English MurderThe Art of the English Murder
by Lucy Worsley

I enjoyed every page of this. It details many of the famous true crimes that inspired the Golden Age detective fiction above.






4:50 from Paddington4:50 from Paddington
by Agatha Christie

As one of my Agatha Christie-loving librarian friends pointed out, this is the original The Girl on the Train.

Book review: Secrets from the Eating Lab

By , April 28, 2015

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again
By Traci Mann

Butts are big in my family. This is not a slam on us. It’s just the truth. We come from hearty German peasant stock and we’re ok with it. The rest of the world may have some issues with our bootyliciousness, but that’s their deal, not ours. The multi-billion dollar diet industry would try to sell us hundreds of different products to help us “Loose Weight Fast and Keep it Off” or “Lose 9 million pounds in 15 minutes!” But like the rest of life, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is. This fact has made me very leery of diet books. I’ve never been a dieter and I don’t intend to start now. I just want to work on eating healthy and taking care of myself and my family.

I think that’s what initially drew me to this book. Check out the subtitle “…and Why You Should Never Diet Again.” Um…you had me at never diet! Woohoo!

Dr. Traci Mann is a professor of social and health psychology at the University of Minnesota. She runs what she calls an Eating Lab, where she and her students study eating patterns. Her research is completely captivating and eye-opening. I feel like the things in her book are things we should know, but things that the diet industry and health professionals have beaten out of us. Her science is strong to back up her claims. For instance – what would you guess is the weight difference between people who spend their whole lives yo-yo dieting and folks who choose to eat more normally? 10 pounds? 100 pounds?

Nope. 1 pound. That’s it.

So go ahead and torture yourself with only celery and lemonade. I’m going to enjoy my pasta and salad with delicious blue cheese dressing. (Of course, if you choose to eat 4 large pizzas for every meal, you’ll probably weigh a little more than the rest of us and have some other health problems, but Dr. Mann talks about that too.)

I loved this book. This book is rational and realistic with solid science to back up the author’s claims. There is no hype about a bold new dieting solution guaranteed to help you loose tons of weight. All of us are not meant to be skinny and that’s ok. Instead, we should strive to eat healthy, exercise a little, and simply enjoy life, letting the numbers take care of themselves.

If you’re like the rest of us who have weight issues, please read this book. You might actually be in better shape than you think.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


A Rose is a Rose is a Rose…

By , April 27, 2015
A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” ~Dylan Thomas

Somewhere between being National Humor Month and National Pecan Month, April is also National Poetry Month. Haiku’s, sonnets, epitaphs, free verse, limericks, and so many more make up the various styles that poetry can be written. The most commonly recognized style of poetry is verse with rhythm and rhyme, such as the ever-popular words:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you”

…Or the other humorous variations that people have created. And people can definitely be creative with the verse.

But essentially, I am going to discuss just a few of the poetry collections that are included in the Wilson Collection. Both the Arion Press and Limited Editions Collection are fond of poetry. Between the two clubs in the Wilson Collection, there are at least 60 books of poetry included. I am only going to discuss a handful of books from the collection that I believe are the most unique and beautiful:

A Child’s Garden of Verses
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrated by: Roger Duvoisin
Published by LEC: 1944

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrations by Roger Duvoisin.

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrations by Roger Duvoisin.

This book by Robert Louis Stevenson happens to be my favorite work of poetry in the entire Wilson Collection. It could be that I am a child at heart, but it’s also because Stevenson’s way with words is exceptional. We all most famously recognize Stevenson’s name from his other works of literature - The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. But his inspiration to write a children’s book came when he went to the south of France in 1884 and came across a book of reminiscent childhood verses by Kate Greenaway.

The world that Stevenson creates in his “book of verses about his childhood” is purposefully nostalgic and warming; welcoming to both adults and children. Adults love the imaginative world that is reminiscent of their childhood and children love the rhythmic pattern that’s created, no matter the words used. And when these children grow older into adults themselves, this book becomes another addition to their memory, and they will see the words in a new light.

For the illustrations created for the book, the LEC did not come by this artist on purpose. Roger Duvoisin came to the LEC office, wanting to show his illustrations for a new edition of Mother Goose. The LEC was not interested because they said that they were not publishers of children’s books. However, his illustrations proved to be too beautiful with its brilliant color that was unprecedented. The LEC referred his beautiful drawings to its apprentice club – The Heritage Press.

It was at this time that the LEC requested that Duvoisin illustrate their future copy of Stevenson’s book. A picture will be coming soon of Duvoisin’s drawings, in the meantime, here is a little sample of A Child’s Garden of Verses:

At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back…

Sonnets From the PortugueseSonnets from the Portuguese
Author: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Illustrated by: Valenti Angelo
Published by LEC: 1948

My “little Portuguese” is what Robert Browning called his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Why? Because when they were honeymooning in Italy, she showed him her series of Sonnets that eventually grew to world fame. His favorite poem of hers “Caterina to Camoens,”  was what spurred the enduring nickname. In the LEC’s newsletter discussing Browning’s work, they say that leaving Shakespeare’s Sonnets aside, her sequence of sonnets are the loveliest in any language. They also say “…these Sonnets gave voice to the world’s love”:

“How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways….”
“...the face of all the world is changed by thee,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul.” 

Pretty powerful, right? And also so easy to understand and empathize with. But the LEC not only wanted to provide this beautiful poetry to its members, it also wanted to provide a physical book and illustrations that matched the poetry’s elegance.

Valenti Angelo is a gifted artist that was born in Italy and came to the United States when he was young. When his family came to the United States, Angelo had no formal education and immediately went to work in a photo-engraving establishment. Needless to say, this path led him to the eventual road of being an artist. And his particular talent – his remarkable use of gold!

Though Angelo lived most of his life in California, he eventually relocated to New York. He illustrated The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night for the LEC, and eventually illustrated another copy of The Rubaiyat (despite the Club’s initial refusal since they already published a copy). As mentioned, his talent was the use of gold. For Sonnets from the Portuguese, Angelo decorated the beginning of each sonnet with an enormous initial letter.

Go Your Stations, Girl 

Go Your Stations, Girl by Carl Martin

Go Your Stations, Girl by Carl Martin

Author: Carl R. Martin
Introduced by Andrew Hoyem
Published by Arion Press – 1991

This book of poetry is unique to the collection because of the author. Typically, the books published by the Arion Press are classic literature or notable poetic works, and are illustrated by prominent, modern artists. In this special case, Carl Martin was an unknown author when he submitted a manuscript of his poem “You’re a Miracle” to Arion Press hoping to have it printed.

The Press was intrigued by the first poem he sent, and asked for the rest of his manuscript. Three years later, the manuscript arrived and proved to be worth the wait. Before the Press printed the manuscript, they requested biographical information about the unknown author.

Carl Martin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1954. April 1st to be exact, he described himself as “a true April fool.” He graduated from Oak Ridge Military Academy in 1972, having been the first African American student to graduate from the school. To provide some context, Oak Ridge also happens to be a school that stopped its studies during the Civil War, to fight for the Confederacy.

Martin was the editor of the school newspaper and the center forward of the soccer team during school. After living a year in Richmond, Virginia and studying for a semester at Virginia Commonwealth University, and then living in Philadelphia for a year, Martin received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. He explained that he wrote most of his book Go Your Stations, Girl during a 2-week period in the early 1980′s.

Here’s a small excerpt from his first poem submitted, “You’re a Miracle”…

She dropped a bale on the animism of the moment.
Why not? Why not reap the crest on the wings of
that organ that stood out in your house of cards?…


Shakespeare's Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited and introduced by Helen Vendler

Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Edited and Introduced by Helen Vendler
Published by Arion Press – 1997

Many people recognize Shakespeare for his ever-famous plays such as A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Romeo & Juliet. But Shakespeare is also known for writing some of the most beautiful sonnets in the English language. It is arguable that his poetry is his most popular work, above his plays. I’ll leave that up to debate. I would just agree that his writing style was unprecedented at the time and still remains to be.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets have been published in many ways since they were written, so I’m sure it confused the subscribers of the Press when they found out that they would be receiving a copy of Shakespeare’s popular work. But what made this particular edition unique was the addition of the introduction by Helen Vendler, a foremost leader in poetry and has written several other intro’s for Arion Press books.

Vendler is also a professor in the Department of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard. She spent 9 years studying Shakespeare’s sonnets, while she was teaching, on vacation, on leaves, and even on sabbatical.

From her intro, Vendler says:

“what is it about the sonnets that makes them still available,
four hundred years after they were written?
It is, above all, the elementary nature of their vocabulary…
Never was feeling more simply expressed:
anyone who can read can read the Sonnets…”

Here is a small sample of Shakespeare’s sonnets:

 “Love alters not with this brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

Shakespeare's Sonnets - Arion Press. Sonnet #1.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Sonnet #1.

Would you like to see these books? They are all housed in the Wilson Room (East Reading Room), on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library (next to the Fine Arts area). Currently and through May, several of the collection’s poetic works are on display in the Wilson Room.

The Wilson Room is open to all visitors during regular Library hours. If you are interested in viewing more books from the Wilson Collection personally, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next month’s post about travel!

Book review: The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio

By , April 19, 2015

The Art of the Simon and Kirby StudioThe Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio
by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; selected and edited by Mark Evanier ; afterword by Jim Simon

The impact and influence of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on comics cannot be overstated. If they’d stopped working in the ‘40s after creating Captain America that would have been enough, but these two men pivoted as their industry changed post-World War II. Kirby produced art at furious clip, filling pages and pages and even more pages while other artists were still sharpening their pencils.

Kirby, of course, became the King, the co-creator of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, and countless other characters. That work tends to obscure his early collaborations with Simon, but this book goes a long way toward changing that. It contains stories published in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s by the Simon and Kirby studio

Simon, no slouch at the art desk himself, had a head for business, and helped the studio become one of the premiere producers of content for America’s comic book industry. In addition to their own work, the Simon and Kirby studio produced work by some of comics’ most famous names: Mort Meskin, Steve Ditko, Al Williamson, and Jack Davis.

Instead of reading finished comic pages, this book is filled with beautiful scans of original art. The pages are gray and yellow and speckled with age, but the art remains as sharp as ever. There are half-finished covers, scribbled text acting as placeholders for copy, and rivers of correction fluid winding through the panels.

Reading this book is like entering the offices of Simon and Kirby and rifling through their files, scouring the slush pile, even breathing in the smoke from one of Kirby’s cigars. It’s a museum in miniature, and like so much else these two artists touched, it’s a wonder to behold.


Audio book review: The Bedwetter

By , April 14, 2015

The Bedwetter: Stories of courage, redemption and pee
By Sarah Silverman, read by the author*

If someone would have ever told me that Sarah Silverman would teach me a usable tenet in my life, I would have laughed at them and then walked away because they were obviously crazy, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love Sarah Silverman. She was hilarious as the overbearing wife in School of Rock and I loved her hooker with a heart of gold in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Even though she loves poo (a lot), I still think she’s smart and funny. But I never expected her to teach me a solid life lesson.

This book came out in 2010 and it haunted me from the new Nonfiction shelves in Popular Materials until it went to its permanent home on the third floor. Why didn’t I read it right away? I think because of the title. I was never a Bedwetter and I always thought that whole concept was yucky, so I just assumed this was Sarah being her potty-humored self. Something made me download it from Overdrive, though, and listen to it on my smart phone (now that I’ve finally joined the 21st century and have one).

*Dear Famous People who Write Books About Your Lives,
If an audio book is ever recorded, you need to read it. That makes the book so much better. Seriously. The ones I’ve listened to that the author reads are ALWAYS better than ones who pawn it off on someone else. Sarah reading her book makes her voice and sarcasm so clear that it doubles the humor.

Anyway, it turns out that Sarah actually had a problem with wetting the bed until she was in high school. She’s brutally honest about it, but there is still some humor. Glad it wasn’t me, but also glad that the title had more meaning that just a crude potty joke. I did like, though, that she and her editor had a long back and forth about the use of Pee vs Pee Pee in the subtitle. For my two cents, I think Sarah’s simple Pee is funnier.

So what was this great life lesson that Sarah taught me? Make it a treat. You know, things you shouldn’t necessarily do every day, but when you do them you should enjoy them. She applied it to partaking in a certain semi-legal substance, but I think you can apply it to just about anything. Pie. Donuts. Reality TV. Once in a while makes it something special, but getting bogged down in it all the time takes all the fun away.

I really enjoyed this book – especially the fact that the audio version was read by Sarah. We also have print versions or the actual book on CD if you don’t do downloads. If you’re looking for something a little lighter as we head into spring, definitely check this one out.

Happy reading/ listening/ making it a treat!

:) Amanda

Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey

By , April 13, 2015

Historic Nashville, Inc., (HNI) documents and preserves the cultural, historical, and architectural heritage of Nashville. HNI has been instrumental in saving some of Nashville’s most iconic and historic buildings, like Union Station and the Ryman Auditorium, and can be credited with jump-starting the revitalization of downtown in the early 1980s.

Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey

One of HNI’s projects, undertaken around 1980, is the Historic Nashville Inc. Downtown Survey. Today, this is a popular resource for individuals researching downtown building histories. It contains information on over 250 buildings in an area generally bounded by the Cumberland River on the east; by 10th Avenue to the west; by the State Capitol at the north; and by Demonbreun Street on the south. The origins of the project are not clear, but generally the focus seems to be on buildings that were 50 years old or older and still standing in 1980.

Many buildings remain familiar parts of the downtown landscape: historic churches like Downtown Presbyterian or St. Mary’s; hotels like the Hermitage Hotel; or iconic buildings still bearing their original names, if not their original use, such as the American Trust building, Southern Turf, or the Silver Dollar Saloon. Other buildings include less well-known structures, though ones you still may pass every day, like the Berger Building or the Weil Block. Yet others have been torn down in the decades since 1980, and this collection is especially useful for the documentation it provides on these sites.

Each file typically includes three types of materials: photographs taken of the building’s exterior in 1980; an architectural description; and a compiled listing of deed and/or city directory research for the individual property.

627-631 Church Street and Candyland

Let’s take a look at one of the files. I’ve chosen Property #101, for the address of 627-631 Church Street, part of the block where the Nashville Public Library is located today.


Most structures will have a photograph of the front of the building, taken from street level.

View of front of building, corner of Church St. and 7th Ave. N.

Sometimes there will also be photographs of architectural details, such as these windows.


Photograph of details of windows


Architectural description

The survey provides a detailed description of the architectural features of the structure. The compiler also noted interior use and layout, and condition of the building.

Architectural description of building


 Deed Research

The file also includes this sheet, showing property transfers based on research in deed records, dating all the way back to 1845!


Deed research worksheet

The researcher in this case also added a sketch of the property and adjacent lots that were described in the will of George W. Smith in 1885.


Sketch of building plan


Not all of the properties covered in the Downtown Survey have as much detail; some have less, some have more. But this should serve as an introduction to this collection if you wish to know more about historic buildings downtown.

Learn more:

View the list of properties included in the survey, arranged by address, or read the formal finding aid which provides an overview.

See what other collections or materials we have that were produced by Historic Nashville, Inc.

Historic Nashville Inc Downtown Survey – Property 101 (pdf)

View selected photographs from a related collection, the HNI Sacred Sites Survey Project. This project was conducted from 1999-2003, and documented local churches that were fifty years old or older.

- Linda

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