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  • Writer's pictureBrandi & Candace

Nashville City Cemetery

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

The Nashville City Cemetery is a beautiful work of art. It was originally built in 1822. Several original tombs on site were designed by William Strickland, who was also the architect for the Tennessee State Capital. Over 20,000 interments are on the property, including many prominent historical Nashvillians, and uniquely for its time- black and white Nashvillians who were not segregated. Unfortunately, cholera wiped out 9% of the population of Nashville, and the Civil War also hurt Nashvillians. The City Cemetery was closed in 1878 to any new plot sells, only allowing family members to prepurchased plots to be buried there. In fact, people are still buried in the City Cemetery today whose families purchased family plots before 1878. Of 22,000 burials, there are only 3,000 tombstones.

For almost 70 years, the cemetery fell in disrepair. In the 1950’s, Mayor Ben West began the preservation effort for the city cemetery. He installed lights, replaced the roads, and repaired markers. It was marked as a National Historic Place in 1972. The problem was- the cemetery wasn’t generating income. Metro Nashville Parks owned the property, and did vague upkeep- mowing grass and the like. But they weren’t equipped to do the heavy lifting. The 1990s saw many volunteer projects to restore the property, and fundraising efforts in the way of 5Ks and tours. The Nashville City Cemetery Association was formed, as a board, to do research, create awareness, and advocate for the cemetery. In 2006, the city of Nashville invested a lot in restoring the property.

The property is about 19 acres, and the paved pathways are in a grid pattern. As you walk, there are eight placards detailing different aspects of Nashvillians’ lives at the height of the City Cemetery’s activity. There are various different types of schedules led tours (one for a women’s perspective, one for a gardener’s perspective, one for a Civil War perspective, etc) and self tours available, even with a mobile app. The wrought iron, weeping willows, and Southern Gothic masonry is very moving and poetically beautiful. A third generation Nashvillians, I’ve never been here before, and cannot recommend how wonderful it was enough.

Name: Nashville City Cemetery

Address: 1001 4th Ave S, 37203

History: 5 out of 5

Walkability: 2 out of 5

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