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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Kellytown Preservation Is Important To Our Heritage
by Bill Coke for The Tennessean

Every day, hundreds of cars cross over the busy intersection at Hillsboro Pike and Old Hickory Boulevard going north and south to and from Nashville and Franklin, or east and west to Brentwood and Highway 100.

Little noticed by most drivers is a vacant field on the southeast corner. This is an important Native American archaeological site listed by Historic Nashville Inc. as one of the nine most-endangered historic sites in Davidson County and by the Tennessee Preservation Trust as one of the 10 most-endangered historic sites in all of Tennessee.

What makes this vacant field so historically important? In 1997, the Tennessee Department of Transportation determined there was a compelling need for a northbound turning lane on Hillsboro Pike. Before any work could begin, TDOT archaeologists were required to conduct an assessment, because there had been reports of possible prehistoric human graves. Between February and July 1999, Gary Barker, a TDOT archaeologist, carried out recovery field work that yielded a treasure trove of artifacts.

In the 30-foot proposed right of way, he found the remains of 10 Mississippian Period structures. He also discovered the remains of two palisade walls with bastions, five child burials and such diverse objects as earrings, frog-effigy bowls, trowels and parts of houses with daub walls. Archaeologists concluded that the whole area was a significant, almost totally intact late Mississippian village dating from A.D. 1250 to 1450.

At the time of these discoveries, the property was owned by the Kelly family, descendants of early settlers in the region. Barker named the archaeological site Kellytown in honor of the Kellys.

In 2002, Regency Realty Group, a large national real estate company, bought the site, intending to develop the land for commercial use. However, for any development to take place, Metro Planning would have to rezone the property from residential to commercial. Because of the opposition from the neighborhoods, Metro Planning has consistently refused to rezone.

Knowing that the only way to save the site from destruction was to buy it and turn it into public land, a not-for-profit group, the Friends of Kellytown, was formed. The group has signed a contract with Regency to buy the Kellytown site and is now soliciting funds from individuals, foundations and corporations.

After the sale is completed, the land would be gifted to Metro Parks for walking trails and educational kiosks open to the public. This concept has been endorsed by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Jeanie Nelson, with the Land Trust for Tennessee; state historian Carroll Van West; state archaeologist Mike Moore; Davidson County historian Carole Bucy; Mark Deutschmann and Shain Denison of Greenways for Nashville; Tim Netsch, Metro Parks; Kathleen Williams, Tennessee Parks and Greenways; Ralph Schulz, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; Patrick McIntyre, Tennessee Historical Commission; Pat Cummins, Native History Association; Tim Walker and Bill McKee, Metro Historical Commission; Brentwood Mayor Betsy Crossly; and Carter Todd, Metro councilman from the 34th District.

Kellytown is an important part of our heritage. This historic greenspace must be preserved as a legacy for future generations of Nashvillians.

William Coke is mayor of Forest Hills.

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