Monday, October 19, 2009

Preservation In Franklin, TN

Preservationists target second pizza place

Franklin's Charge hopes to have replica cotton gin built
by 150th anniversary of 1864 battle

By Kevin Walters • THE TENNESSEAN • October 15, 2009

FRANKLIN — Franklin's reclamation of its battlefield land could take another leap forward in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin.

Organizers of local nonprofit Franklin's Charge are negotiating to buy the Domino's Pizza restaurant and Four Star Market at the corner of Cleburne Street and Columbia Avenue and convert them into a new park, where a replica of a cotton gin that once stood there would be built.

The buildings and land are owned by developer and longtime resident Don Cameron, who says he's willing to give Franklin's Charge a chance to buy the buildings for the park, but he says he won't wait forever.

"I want to be more than fair about it," said Cameron, who recently had the site reappraised. "It's time to fish or cut bait with them. I've agreed to do it, and now it's time for them to step up to the plate."

If the deal happens, it would be another reclamation of land where hundreds of soldiers died when four Confederate divisions met Union forces on Nov. 30, 1864, in the fighting of the Battle of Franklin. The 150th anniversary would be in 2014. In 2005 a Pizza Hut restaurant across the street from the land was demolished.

Details of the deal are emerging after a weekend in which thousands of people and national media attention turned to Franklin for the funeral and burial of an unknown soldier killed sometime around 1864. The soldier's bones were accidentally unearthed in May and reburied Saturday in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Ernie Bacon, president of Franklin's Charge, said the high attendance for the funeral proved there's great public interest in historic-themed events and sites.

"I think it speaks very well for the value of heritage tourism," Bacon said.

Franklin's Charge is a local coalition of local nonprofit groups first organized for the $5 million purchase of a 110-acre golf course adjacent to Carnton Plantation that will be a Civil War park.

Bacon says Cameron's land at that intersection is a key piece to creating the larger plan for land begun years ago. He said negotiations have been ongoing.

"We're reclaiming what land is available to us now," Bacon said. "The property on that corner is significant because of the intense fighting that occurred during the Battle of Franklin."

Sale is 'not a business deal'

Cameron, who can trace his family roots here to the earliest days of the city's founding, said he's previously turned down offers to sell that land to other investors, including a bank.

"This is not about a business deal," Cameron said.

In 2005, city officials paid $300,000 for roughly a quarter of an acre on the thern side of the intersection where the Pizza Hut once stood. After a public ceremony was held where the restaurant was torn down, a park was built commemorating where Confederate Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne was killed during the Battle of Franklin.

Last year, Franklin's Charge bought a house and property at 1219 Columbia Ave. for $950,000 to add to land for the park. The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County already owns the Carter Cotton Gin property, which adjoins this land. Carter House, considered the site of the most intense fighting, is across the street on Columbia Avenue.

Bacon, who was an alderman when the city bought the former Pizza Hut land as well as the Eastern Flank property, said the group would not seek public money to pay for this acquisition.

The group might turn to the Civil War Preservation Trust for grant money.

"We're stepping up our fundraising," Bacon said.

Cameron declined to give the sale price of the land. County records show Cameron Properties bought the site, which includes addresses 1221 through 1225 of Columbia Avenue back in September 1997 for $620,000. No contract for a sale of the property has been made, and Cameron declined to say what the sale price would be.

Bacon estimated that Franklin's Charge would spend $3.2 million, including last year's purchase, the purchase of Cameron's property and building a replica of the former cotton gin.

Meanwhile, plans are under way for this year's commemoration of the Battle of Franklin. Volunteers will light 10,000 candles as part of an annual commemoration of the battle, which is set for Nov. 28 at the Confederate Cemetery at Carnton Plantation.