'It's part of the soul of Nashville' Historians discuss future of Second Ave. after Christmas Day bombing

christmas day bombing
Posted at 8:52 AM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 10:45:20-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Last week's Christmas Day bombing shook Second Avenue and severely damaged some of Nashville's oldest buildings.

The explosion happened near Second and Commerce, in the heart of the Second Avenue Historic District. Many of the buildings nearby were built in the mid-1800s, and the area was the first National Historic District in Davidson County.

"It's really heartbreaking," Ann Roberts said. During her decades-long career with the Metro Historical Commission, Roberts advocated to preserve Second Avenue. Many of the current commissioners credit her for saving the area from development after a 1985 fire destroyed a Second Avenue building.

"There was a threat of a 21-story building being built there," she recalled. Roberts said she is not as worried about development after this tragedy because the attitude around preservation in Nashville has changed in the 35 years, a shift she said was clear in the aftermath of the 2010 floods, which also devastated parts of the historic district.

Roberts feels connected to Second Ave. because she feels it embodies Nashville's story, from it's start as a river town, when the warehouses that still line the street would be used to unload goods off of steam boats, to its current status as a tourism destination.

"It says who we are in so many ways," she said. "All of these heartbreaking things and happy things are chapters in our story. This is just one I so wish hadn't been written."

Future chapters in Second Avenue's story are more uncertain. Metro Historical Commission staff have not been able to assess the damage to the district yet. When rebuilding does start, it will be regulated by both federal and local guidelines, meaning the rebuilding process will likely take longer.

"The work before us is really important and it's going to be challenging," Metro Historical Commission Chair Clay Bailey said, stressing that the additional restrictions will make sure Second Avenue keeps its historic charm.

"It is obvious that this is not going to be a quick fix," Roberts said.

Still, she said Second Avenue's story isn't over.

"It's a very resilient street. For those buildings to have survived 150 years or so, it means that there's a lot of life in them," Roberts said. "This is tough and we're in shock, but we'll come back."