The Plan of Nashville

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"The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from alone which men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living."

G.K. Chesterton

"On St. George Revived,"

All I Survey


History of Nashville

The first known photograph of Nashville is of the public square. this is fitting for it is the public square that is the point of vantage for Nashville's history in three dimensions.

It was with the square that the settlers from North Carolina first began to apply an enduring shape to the land they claimed. That shape was supplied by surveyor Thomas Molloy, who in 1784, before Tennessee was even a state, platted a village of one-acre lots, with four accres reserved for a civic square on the bluffs above the Cumberland River near Fort Nashborough. Molloy laid his lines as a grid running up and down and across hills and valleys with no regard for topography--obvious progenitors of the downtown street pattern of today. Click here to read more

Nashville's Public Square

(Photograph, 1855:TennesseeState Museum)

Click the images below to see them displayed larger.

Preparing for the Plan

The Plan of Nashville is the first effort to consider the central city in its entirety, develop a community-based vision, and identify design principles. The goals of the Plan of Nashville are threefold.

1. Establish, through community participation, a long-term vision and core set of design principles that will guide current and future development in Nashville.

2. Increase public awareness and understanding of the physical environment through community participation in historical research and visioning workshops.

3. Produce a book and model that serve to record the vision, design principles, and the process that established them.

The Plan of Nashville Historical Timeline (60KB)

The History of Planning Timeline (60KB) by Randy Hutcheson, Planner

Downloads & Links

Metro Historical Commission Publications

Footnotes contains two self-guided walking tours of downtown Nashville. The tours point out some of Nashville's most architecturally and historically significant buildings. Whether you take one tour or both, this brochure will provide you with an excellent introduction to Tennessee's historic capital city.

Footnotes: A Walking Tour of Downtown Nashville History and Architecture (3.2 MB)

This brochure explores the several names and nicknames that the city has become known by: Nashboro, Nashville, Capital City, Athens of the South, Music City.

Nashville: What's in a name? (2.4 MB)

Additional Historical Resources

Metro Nashville Archives

Tennessee State Library -

Historic Nashville -

Nashville Public Library Special Collections - Nashville Room


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