Work continues to rebuild historic Second Avenue within blast zone

2nd ave damage.jpg
Posted at 2:51 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-05 15:51:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Three months after the Christmas Day bombing ravaged historic Second Avenue downtown, the clean-up and rebuilding effort has begun.

NewsChannel 5’s Rhori Johnston recently got a rare, up-close look at the damage inside the so-called "hot zone" with a person who knows a lot about the important history of the area: Ann Roberts, the former director of the Metro Historical Commission.

"It hurts my heart to see this, and yet, I can see that it's salvageable,” Roberts said, as she toured the blast zone.

Despite the initial visual shock -- facades blown away, piles of bricks and rubble -- there is a flurry of activity. The sounds of construction and repair and that gives her hope.

"Not saying it will be easy. Not saying it will be quick. But those buildings can be fixed,” Roberts said.

Those buildings aren't just any structures.

Many are more than 150 years old. They rose along what was once called Market Street in post-Civil War Nashville.

"Nashville came out of the Civil War in much better shape than a lot of the southern towns and cities," Roberts explains.

Commercial goods would arrive by boat on the Cumberland River, be unloaded on the First Avenue side, and vendors would then sell to the public on Second Avenue.

"Over the years, it has transitioned from those original uses residential, retail, restaurant, entertainment," Roberts said.

And over the years, Roberts has been there, too. She served on the Historical Commission for three decades, fighting to keep developers from changing the look and feel of the area and helping to restore buildings after a raging fire in 1985, the floods of 2010 and now, the bombing.

Roberts and other city leaders know the buildings may look devastated but they are narrow run a full city block deep toward the river. So while some facades are gone, structurally, the overall properties can be saved.

"There's something about the materials, the way they're put together. The craftsmanship,” Roberts said. "We have wonderful photographic representation of what they looked like. So it's not impossible by a long shot to reconstruct."

But that will cost money, now and in the future.

"This shouldn't be another Broadway. It needs to have its own identity," she said.

An identity that Roberts says represents the entire community.

"We know this is -- this is part of our story. This is part of Nashville's story," Roberts said.