Photo displays to remember long history of downtown Clarksville

Historic downtown Clarksville
Posted at 6:52 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 19:52:01-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With a new arena on the way, Clarksville's downtown is in for another major change. Over the course of the last century, this downtown has had many faces, whether through progress or through a natural disaster. An effort's underway to remember it all.

"Some of these buildings are from the late 1800s," said photographer David Smith, walking through downtown Clarksville. "This is where the Woolworths was, and you can still see the 'W' in the tile here. It's a beautiful town with a rich history."

That's why Smith is so interested in the stories of his city, long before he was here to capture it. Smith's part of a new effort called Clarksville Then and Now.

Ellen Kanervo of the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council explained pictures collected of downtown from long ago will soon be placed on signs next to the current buildings.

"Each sign will have a photograph, and they will have a QR code where people can use their phones to get more information on the people who occupied these buildings in years past," she said.

The pictures and a website will tell stories of sites like the one where the Roxy Theater stands now.

"It was the Lillian theater," Smith explained. "I know it burned at least once, and it was replaced by the Roxy. The Roxy's from the 40s."

That fire is far from the only moment that changed downtown. In January 1999, Clarksville was hit by a tornado.

"It devastated the downtown area," said Smith. "You have buildings that weren't rebuilt. You've got businesses that are gone, damaged."

Smith's hope is this project will be another way to immerse people in his city's history.

The plan, for now, is to take these pictures and do the work along Franklin Street. After that, other streets in downtown Clarksville will be considered.

"It's a rich history, and we just need to keep that alive," said Smith. "That's what we need to do to help downtown flourish and keep it flourishing."

If you have any pictures of Clarksville from 50 to 100 years ago, they might just become a part of this project. The Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council is asking people to contact them to submit their pictures.