Franklin, Tennessee, approximately 20 miles south of Nashville in Williamson County, is said to be “rooted in Americana”. What does that mean exactly? It can mean a few different things, as the term Americana applies to a variety of concepts:
- History. One definition is “things associated with the culture and history of America, especially the United States.”
- Lifestyle. Think small towns and main streets.
- Music. A genre incorporating elements of American roots music, from blues and bluegrass to folk and rock.
History, main street, and music: I experienced all of it in Franklin during my visit in December 2017.
Civil War History in Franklin
Franklin was founded in 1799 and, along with the entire of Williamson County, experienced great prosperity in the years leading up to the Civil War. But, on November 30, 1864, that all began to change with the Battle of Franklin. It turned out to be one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War with more than 8,000 casualties, including 6 Confederate Generals – the most of any battle in the war. It is also said that the Confederate charge at Franklin was longer, larger, and deadlier than at the Battle of Gettysburg.
As such, there are significant Civil War sites in Franklin: Carnton, Carter House, and Lotz House. Guided tours of all three sites are available.
- Carnton Plantation was built in 1826 by former Nashville mayor Randall McGavock. During the Battle of Franklin, Confederate troops took over the McGavock home and turned it into a field hospital. Admission also includes access to the surrounding gardens and McGavock Cemetery, where many of the Confederate soldiers who died during the Battle of Franklin are buried.
- Carter House is another private home that was taken over by Confederate soldiers during the Battle of Franklin. The home was owned by Franklin businessman, Fountain Branch Carter. While the battle raged, he and his family, along with their neighbors (the Lotz Family; see below) and slaves, took refuge in the basement of the home. The building was pierced by more than a thousand bullets, the holes still visible today and regarded as evidence of the horrors endured during the war.
- Lotz House was built by Johann Albert Lotz, a German immigrant, and master carpenter. Lotz feared his family would not be safe in their completely wooden house during the Battle of Franklin. So, they walked 110 steps to the Carter House and took refuge in their basement. The Lotz House did survive the battle but not without severe damage. Visitors can still see where a cannonball, shot through the roof of the home, came to rest on the first floor.
Great American Main Street
Not only is Franklin’s Main Street on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s also been designated a Great American Main Street by the National Main Street Center. A subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Main Street Center partners with local businesses and community leaders to revitalize historic downtown areas. The objective is to build vibrant communities and thriving economies, all while preserving historic character.
Downtown Franklin is a National Main Street Center success story. It boasts 16 blocks of retail establishments, from high-end boutiques to vintage home goods and hand-crafted gift stores. Also, there is no shortage of excellent eateries and cafes, and vibrant art galleries dot the downtown landscape. Franklin has all the sophistication of a big city while still emanating that unmistakable southern charm.
Main Street must-stops:
- Bink’s Outfitters: Locally-owned outdoor sportswear and clothing store.
- Philanthropy: Fashionable clothing and accessories for women, with 10% of every sale in store and 100% of all online sales donated to various charities.
- Jondie: Family-owned boutique offering affordable and fashionable clothing, jewelry, and accessories.
- White’s Mercantile: Owned by Holly Williams, Hank’s granddaughter, it’s a “general store for the modern-day tastemaker”. One-stop shop offering unique, chic, and fashionable home accessories.
- Landmark Booksellers: Housed in Franklin’s most historic building, featuring 60,000 individually selected, new, old, and rare books.
Part of America’s Greatest Music Story
Nashville is known as Music City. Memphis is the Home of the Blues. And little Franklin is right up there with the big guys when it comes to music heritage. Franklin is part of the Americana Music Triangle, an area covering five states and a portion of the Mississippi River where nine different music genres have evolved through the centuries. Called “America’s Greatest Music Story”, the Triangle connects Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans, and celebrates the roots of blues, jazz, country, rock & roll, R&B/soul, gospel, Southern gospel, Cajun/zydeco, and bluegrass. Or, more concisely, Americana.
The Americana Music Association may be based there, but that’s not the only reason Franklin is included in the Americana Music Triangle. The music scene in Franklin is said to have a “back porch vibe”. Along with neighboring town Leiper’s Fork, Franklin is a haven for the singer/songwriter crowd and is even home to a number of famous musicians (with names like Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton). Like Nashville, music is everywhere in Franklin, but on a more laid-back scale. At the venues across town, aspiring musicians line up for hours, hoping to get on the list for that night’s open mic and, even more, to be discovered. For the music fans, you never know who could be in the crowd or who could show up on stage.
Some of the more legendary music venues in Franklin:
- Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant (locations in both Franklin and Leiper’s Fork)
- Gray’s on Main
- Franklin Theater
- The Legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor
From the blood of the soldiers lost in the Battle of Franklin to the musical heritage, Franklin definitely is rooted in Americana. Come to think of it, Franklin is as Americana as it gets.
I was hosted by Visit Franklin and that had nothing to do with my becoming completely enamored with the town. All words and opinions are, as always, my own.