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
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
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.
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
William Coke is mayor of Forest Hills.