Carnton Plantation opens new visitors center
By Kevin Walters • THE TENNESSEAN
July 29, 2009
FRANKLIN — Today, visitors to Carnton Plantation will get their first glimpse inside a long planned project to bring modern amenities to a site with ties to Franklin's Civil War past.
The new, $1.2 million Fleming Center opens its doors for a soft opening Wednesday that Carnton supporters have been hoping would come for years. At 7,000 square feet, the new visitors center offers ample event and exhibit space, as well as new restrooms, water fountains and office space for staff. The center will replace the doublewide trailer used at the site for years.
The upgrade will improve visitors' trips to the museum and will mean more guests can use Carnton for events like weddings and receptions, said Margie Thessin, plantation interim executive director.
"For us, events are fund-raising," Thessin said. "We really hope that people like to come out and take a look."
During the Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864, the plantation's main house was used as a hospital. It is adjacent to the McGavock Confederate Cemetery, the largest privately held Confederate cemetery.
The center, which sits behind where the trailer is located, is named after Sam Fleming, a Franklin native and Middle Tennessee banker who was a lifelong supporter of the museum. His widow, Valerie Fleming, raised money to build the center and name it after her husband. An official dedication ceremony will take place Sept. 12.
Exhibits planned for the center include a new Battle of Franklin exhibit that will feature relics from the battle, including presentation swords and other artifacts. In September, the center will host an exhibit focusing on Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, who was defeated at the Battle of Franklin.
"We feel like this exhibit is going to draw people from all over the country," Thessin said.
The center will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays, the center will be open from 1 to 5 p.m.