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Fort Negley visitors site to open eyes

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  • lilsteve68@aol.com
    Fort Negley visitors site to open eyes By Gail Kerr - Tennessean _http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006611120370_
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2006

      Fort Negley visitors site to open eyes

      By Gail Kerr - Tennessean


      Maybe it's because we believed the South was going to rise again. Maybe it was leftover humiliation that Nashville fell to the Yankees in 1862 with barely a whimper. Or maybe it just took a mayor who isn't from here to see the value in what locals almost allowed to crumble away forever.

      Whatever the reason, Fort Negley reopened, thankfully, two years ago as a public park, a shrine, a history lesson to anyone willing to climb the hill and look out at a panoramic, 360-degree view of our city. Mayor Bill Purcell's administration is about to take the final step: construction of a visitors center.

      Nashville became the Union Army's staging ground during the Civil War. They wanted us for simple reasons: good roads, a river and a railroad.

      Fort Negley was the most important in a series of forts they built in Nashville between 1862 and 1864. It's the only one left standing. From the top of the hill, the Union Army was able to easily see and fend off any attempt by the Confederacy to take back the city.

      The visitors center will explain all that in a low-key building located in part of the Greer Stadium parking lot, just to the right of the stone archway entrance to Fort Negley at 534 Chestnut St. The aim is to help students, Civil War historians, and locals such as you and me connect the dots on how the fort fit into the bigger picture.

      "People will come here and see this artifact, and then go off to other Civil War sites," said Curt Garrigan, assistant parks director. "Everyone has envisioned this to be a big tourism attraction."

      The center will put into context how Fort Negley connects to the historic Travellers' Rest home, for example, and the Battle of Nashville.

      The visitors center will have a wall mural, a 15-minute movie about Fort Negley, and a lobby with rotating exhibits. There will be maps and technology aplenty, including research assistance. Someone might be researching their family's genealogy, for example, or trying to figure out if their great-grandfather was one of the African-American men forced to build the fort.

      The fort is made of 60,000 cubic feet of stone on four acres. Signs remind visitors that it is a fragile site. But only in the places where limestone is falling down does it look fragile.

      In fact, if you climb to the top — up the walking trails opened in December 2004 — the vista from each star-shaped wall explains why the Union Army picked this place.

      The fact that it is still there is a credit more to the men who built it than to the city that inherited it. To our shame, the Ku Klux Klan used it for a while. Then poor squatters lived on it in shacks. It was locked up in 1944, and mostly forgotten about.

      We can't rewrite that history. But thank goodness it has been unlocked

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