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Woolworth Theatre sets priority on preserving artifacts amid construction

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Posted at 7:46 PM, Nov 16, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A few eagle-eyed neighbors of the Woolworth in downtown Nashville spotted what appeared to be history in the trash, but developers say they were only replicas.

Keval Sheth is CEO of the Woolworth Theatre where construction is underway to finish the new entertainment venue by 2022. People noticed a dumpster last week with objects that resembled décor from the lunch counters of the 1960s.

Sheth says he understands why this drew a red flag but assured us it was a misunderstanding. The Woolworth on 5th is the restaurant that closed its doors during the beginning of the pandemic and never reopened. The restaurant was filled with replicas of the old stools, lunch counters, and everything in between.

To make space for the new theater concept, they threw away the replicas and preserved the originals. That includes three stools now on display by the window.

"They’re going to be able to see a part of not only Nashville history, but National history, and for us that right there is extremely profound and moving," Sheth said.

Sheth has partnered with country music artist Chuck Wicks and 615 Ventures to create Woolworth Theatre. He describes the space as a "production that’s a spectacle that will feature exhilarating acts performed in an intimate setting."

Years of transitions between everything from a Dollar General to a restaurant meant some things were lost in transition. No one seems to know where the original counter is, but Sheth says they’ve maintained stools, the terrazzo floors, handrails, and ironwork from the mezzanine. They’ve since incorporated the iron design into their logo.

A sort of past meets present on the street we now call Rep. John Lewis Way. It was at this lunch counter that he had his first of many arrests for non-violent protests in his career. He along with Diane Nash is recognized in photos outside the theater, where they once helped to desegregate lunch counters across Nashville.

“It’s not only important for the city of Nashville, but this was a moment in time that was important for our country. We understood the magnitude of the history that occurred there,” Sheth said.