Photo: Corner of Main and Van Buren Streets (approximate center of the Nashville Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2022). Photgraphed by wikipedia username: Serge Melki, own work, 2011, [cc-2.0], accessed December, 2022/
The small village of Nashville was laid out in a fairly traditional, but small gridded plat located on a gentle rise at its north end. The plat includes a courthouse lot on the northeast corner of Main and Van Buren Streets to claim the town's place as the county seat of Brown County government, as well as a traditional town square at the intersection of Main and Jefferson Streets. The 19th and early 20th century importance of Main Street is evidenced not only by the town square and orientation of the courthouse to Main Street, but also because it retains the city's earliest commercial architecture. The road was part of the Columbus- Bloomington State Road in its early days. A few grand homes from that period also populated the lots lining Van Buren and Jefferson Streets. During the 1920s-1940s, a number of small homes were also constructed, dotting the streets away from the commercial district. These are Minimal Traditional Homes and simple Bungalows, many built by the same man, Fred Rains.
In the 1930s, however, Van Buren Street became Highway 135 and Highway 46 was bypassed to the south circa 1962. This shifted commercial development to Van Buren Street and reduced traffic flow on Main Street. Because of this shift, commercial buildings constructed during the 1940s through 1970s, and into the late 20th century, now line Van Buren Street/Highway 135. By this time, the village was becoming known as a haven for artists. With the development of Brown County State Park, it also began to develop a strong tourist trade which supported artists' shops and dining establishments, many of which remain on Van Buren Street. Many of these commercial buildings departed from traditional styles found in Midwestern towns during this period and instead embraced the rustic, primitive qualities of architecture found in the region and made popular in the state park.
The district includes about 130 resources with only a marginal majority of those being homes. There are a number of commercial buildings, some apartment buildings, museum buildings, the courthouse, a former school and post office, and two churches. There are a handful of large modern (cira 1980-2000) developments in or on the periphery of the district. Because of their scale and building materials, they do not generally impact the historic nature of the district. Where deemed essential to create a logical boundary, some of these modern developments are included in the district. They are considered non-contributing due to their age (post-1973).
Other buildings, constructed during the period of significance, may be rendered non-contributing if they have been so significantly altered to remove significant historic materials or change the general massing of the building. There are six examples of buildings constructed during the period of significance that have been altered to the extent they are considered non-contributing. A commercial building at 37 West Main, a bank building, appears to have been three early 20th century buildings that were joined together circa 1979 to create one bank building. The buildings have been sided with board and batten wood, and mansards and awnings were applied. This substantially changed the appearance of the building, rendering it non-contributing. An example of a house that has been rendered non-contributing is located at 160 W. Franklin Street. The gable-front house has modern boards and battens on its walls, altered window fenestration, substantial deck and porch reconfiguration, and large rear addition.
While new siding or new windows on their own may not render a building non-contributing, a combination of factors like those mentioned on 160 W. Franklin would merit non-contributing status. This includes any substantial change to massing or orientation of entry. Two examples of most altered, yet determined contributing buildings are located at 48 S. Van Buren and 191 W. Main. The example on S. Van Buren is the Minor House, 1857, now home to the Brown County Art Guild. The I-House retains its general massing, though building materials are new and first story window locations have been altered. The building also has an addition on its south side, though reduced in scale to not overwhelm the original house. Because of the building's early age, retention of general massing, and importance to the arts community, it is considered contributing. The example on W. Main is a former schoolhouse, constructed circa 1865, but was remodeled in the mid-20th century into a home with Colonial Revival details. Here, the orientation of the building is likely changed, as is fenestration, however, it retains its massing and alterations occurred during the period of significance. The building is also of historic importance due to its original use as a school-the only historic school remaining in the village.
Period of Significance (justification) The period of significance begins in 1832, the approximate construction date of the Banner Brummett log cabin located at 60 N. Johnson. The cabin is believed to be the oldest extant building in the town of Nashville. The period of significance ends in 1973 with the construction of a small apartment building with both Colonial and Modern Rustic Revival features at 161 N. Jefferson. This is the last contributing resource in the district. Buildings like 161 N. Jefferson were part of the overall community trend towards the use of vernacular forms and local materials.
In 1907, artist T. circa Steele relocated to Brown County and in 1929, Brown County State Park was established east of town. These two events set the community on a trajectory to be both a haven for artists and destination for tourists. These two aspects of life in Nashville remained intertwined through most of the 20th century. In the early 1970s, two large hotels were constructed on the south fringe of town on new Highway 46, catering to the ever-increasing number of tourists visiting Nashville. The year 1973 was selected to end the period of significance not only due to the 50 year mark for eligibility, but also because a new thrust of building did not begin again until the late 1970s and early 1980s, which triggered expansive population growth in the village.
The Nashville Historic District has distinctive origins in both the arts and tourism trades. Artists began making the Nashville region home in the early 1900s and sold their works at studios located in the district. This continued well into the second part of the 20th century and became its own draw for tourism. Of the few art colonies or favored spots of the Hoosier School art scene, Brown County-Nashville is probably the longest lived and most emblematic place. Compounded with the region's famous landscape and Brown County State Park, the tourism industry began to flourish in the county by the mid- 20th century, leading the district to increasingly more commerce related to hospitality and craft trades. Therefore, the three areas of Art, Entertainment/Recreation, and Commerce work in unison in the district. While traditional commerce played an early role in the district, its impact by the mid-20th century was more devoted to an art and tourism trade. As the county seat of Brown County, the courthouse was established in the village, as well as its log jail, and post offices served the historic district until circa 1980.
The district exhibits good examples of most American architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries. These include vernacular log cabins, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Neoclassical, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and probably most prolific, Rustic Revival architecture that has come to symbolize and uniquely identify the village in Indiana.
As the seat of Brown County government, Nashville enjoys the benefits of county facilities located in its corporation limits. Historic vestiges of its role as the county seat are located in the district and include the current county courthouse (1873-1874) and old log jail (1879). Brown County was created by division from three counties, Bartholomew, Jackson, and Monroe, by an act of the Indiana General Assembly in February 1836. It was named Brown County in honor of Major General Jacob Brown, noted American officer during the War of 1812. Commissioners were appointed from those three divisions to form the first Board of Commissioners. The first election to fill the required county offices occurred on the first Monday of June, 1836. The newly-elected commissioners met in July 1836 to establish townships and election precincts in the county. On August 8 of the same year, the Brown County Board of Commissioners accepted 50 acres donated by James Dawson, Banner Brummet, John Followell, Pierson Brummet, James Huff, William Snyder, John King, and Henry Jackson for the establishment of the county seat which the commissioners named Jacksonburg, later to be renamed Nashville. Banner Brummet was appointed county agent to lay out lots in the county seat and offer them for sale. The first auction for lots was September 12, 1836.
In 1837, a committee composed of F. Goss, J. Watson, and William Taggart was appointed to select lots for the erection of county buildings. Lots 1 and 2 were selected for the construction of the jail and courthouse, respectively. It is interesting to note that the plat of Nashville (then Jacksonburg) is unusual in that the public square evolved with streets intersecting in its middle rather than around the perimeter, more of a function of an open, public square than reserved for a building in the center. Early drawings show a circle inscribed in the square, but no evidence shows there was ever a delineation. The lots chosen for public buildings were a full block east of this main intersection/center of town, and on a rise fronting Main Street. By the 1930s, when State Road 135 was established on Van Buren, and Main Street held the designation of State Road 46, the courthouse featured more prominently, as least as far as transportation corridors were concerned.
A jail, built of logs in 1837, served until 1879 when it was replaced by a new log building. The 1879 log jail is extant and part of the county museum complex near the courthouse. The courthouse was also of log construction and served the county from 1837 until 1853 when it was replaced by a brick structure. The brick building caught fire in 1873 during a circuit court hearing and was completely destroyed. The current brick courthouse replaced the second building and was built between 1873 and1874 at a cost of $9000 by the Columbus, Indiana firm of McCormack & Sweeney. Other county facilities located in or near Nashville, including the county's poor farm in 1870, east of town. Funds were raised through lot sales in Nashville to support a county seminary (transferred to school funds in 1853) and county library in 1840. Mail delivery was another significant government service, and one that aided local commerce. Several buildings in the district housed former locations of the post office, as noted in the description.
Commerce, art, and entertainment/recreation, become intertwined in the Nashville Historic District beginning in the 20th century and lasting through the end of the period of significance. The role commerce played traces its origins to the early development of the town in the mid-to-late 1800s as most traditional Midwestern communities experienced. However, commerce evolved with the impact of artists and tourists in the region beginning in the early 1900s and 1930s with a real insurgence during the late 1940s through 1960s.
Nashville benefitted greatly from its location as Brown County's seat of government, central location in the county, and generally flat terrain in its immediate vicinity. A nearby water source, Salt Creek, plenty of timber and easily accessible stone provided the natural materials needed to construct the village's early homes and businesses, mostly of log construction with rubblecoursed brown sandstone foundations and chimneys. Lots were offered for purchase in 1837, the year after the county was established and town platted. The first shops were kept as part of or adjacent to the first settlers' homes. W. S. Roberts constructed a double-pen log cabin in 1836, in which he lived in one part and had a stock of goods he brought from Bloomington in the other part. David Deitz, arriving by about 1837, had the same arrangement with a shop in one part of the cabin and living quarters in the other. Lorenzo Head was a gunsmith and blacksmith who located in the town about 1837; he had a shop in his cabin, then built a blacksmith shop within a short time of arriving. Others opening shops or taverns during the first years were Banner Brummet, William Davidson, William Followell, and P.C. Parker (all dealers in liquors), and Lewis Wayland (general merchandise). Unlike most Indiana county seats, Nashville's businesses kept a local focus because the town lacked a railroad. The county's first and only line wasn't built until 1905, and it was about six miles away from Nashville at its closest stop.
Nashville incorporated as a town in 1872. A census in the same year found a population of 286. A few notable merchants during the 1860s-early 1870s were Frank P. Taggart, who offered general merchandise, John and F. D. Calvin, who offered hardware, and Jennie Allison, a milliner. In 1859, a tavern opened for business on the southeast corner of Van Buren and Main Streets. The tavern and inn became known as the Nashville House, which evolved during the second half of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century into a large hotel and restaurant. Frank Taggart built a drugstore circa 1873 on the southwest corner of Van Buren and Main Streets. Calvin's Hardware Store was one of the first businesses to occupy the first floor of the three-story brick building constructed on West Main Street by the Masons and Knights of Pythias for meeting lodges in 1910. The building remains the largest historic commercial building in the district. A frame commercial building, not unlike the Taggart Building, on the north edge of downtown was constructed during the late 19th/early 20th century. It grew to notoriety by the 1950s as the Pine Room Tavern, by then it was fully clad in logs and boards and battens to attract tourists. The only other extant commercial buildings constructed in the district leading up to about 1910 are the nearly identical Nashville State Bank Building and Dr. Ray Tilton Office-Nashville Post Office, 66 and 68 East Main, built circa 1905-1910. The bank changed locations to the south side of West Main Street in 1919. Several of the town's early merchants and doctors constructed their stately homes on Van Buren and Jefferson Streets in the district.
Growth of the small village remained slow. The largest gain occurred between 1870 and 1880, when the population grew by about 80 individuals. The gain rescinded though during the first decades of the 1900s as industries changed, including timber and agriculture, and Nashville never attracted the development of a railroad. By 1920, the population had decreased to 323, less than the population in 1880. Nashville's destiny, however, would not be fixed to the traditional kind of commerce or industry typically found in Midwestern towns.
T. C. Steele, a noted landscape artist, purchased property near the small village of Belmont in Brown County in 1907. Steele was already a fixture in the art world, and would only strengthen his influence during the time he lived in Brown County. Following Steele, over 25 artists relocated to the hills of Brown County, some lodging in Nashville, in 1908. The trend continued for decades as artists from urban areas of Chicago, Cincinnati, and nearby Indianapolis traveled to Brown County, at times arriving by train in Helmsburg then continuing to Nashville for lodging. In 1908, the Brown County Art Colony became the largest art colony in the central United States. Artists patronized restaurants and stayed in lodges and hotels including the Pittman House, Mason House, and Ferguson House at 78 W. Franklin Street.
Artists purchased homes or built summer studios nearby Nashville. These included Will and Mary Vawter and Adolph and Ada Schultz. Adolph Schultz may have been most influential in driving the Nashville region toward a land of weekend retreats by Indianapolis businessmen and lawyers. The influx of artists included more than landscape artists, soon potters, weavers, photographers, and artists working in wood, glass, and other materials opened studios in Nashville. Frank Hohenberger came to Nashville in 1917 after hearing about its beauty and residents and focused on photography. His studio was located in the Odd Fellows Building, then later, the Taggart Building. Writing articles in the Indianapolis Star between 1923 and 1954 named "Down in the Hills O' Brown County,"16 Hohenberger no doubt assisted in the influx of artists and tourists, who were a growing influence during the 1940s- 1960s. This increased awareness of the region resulted in an increase in population as well. Significant increases in the permanent population of Nashville began in the 1930s, growing from 369 to 493 in 1940 and to 526 in 1950. This remained essentially unchanged in 1970 with a population of 527. This helps establish the period of significance linking the town's growth in population to the growth in the arts colony and transition to tourism. Relatively dramatic growth occurred again by 1980 and into the 1990s when the population grew to 705 and then peaked at 873 in 1990.
Many vestiges of the district's significance as a center of art remain, though not all continue to be studios. The Ferguson House, the place where many of the early artists stayed, remains on Franklin Street and Hohenberger's second studio location remains with the Taggart Building. Chicago artist E. K. Williams made Brown County his permanent home in 1926 and made the gable-front building at 161 S. Van Buren his studio. Another artist would later use the building as his studio; Anthony Buchta first painted in Brown County in 1929 and became a member of the Brown County Art Guild. The Brown County Art Guild was established in the Minor House, 48 S. Van Buren, in 1954. Mary Bissell, a weaver, lived at 95 S. Van Buren. A few other mid-century studios include the potter's studio at 44 W. Franklin and studios for artists at 90 W. Franklin. The Brown County Art Barn was a former gas station converted to studios for artists circa 1970 at 79 N. Van Buren and Trilogy Studios at 45 N. Van Buren opened in 1970. Dotting the hills just outside the district are several other studios and homes of early members of the artist colony/artist guild.
Other historic places are closely linked to Indiana's fine art traditions, roughly grouped together by the name "Hoosier School." The Indiana Dunes (Calumet Region); Herron School of Art and its original neighborhood; Irvington; and Brookville are the most important besides Brown County. The rustic image of Brown County has remained the best known of these.
The district's artistic flair goes beyond visual and hand-crafted arts and extends to the rich musical legacy and performance arts in the region. The Brown County Play House, a vision of Nashville House proprietor Andy Rogers, provided performances during the 1960s-1970s, including plays presented by Indiana University students. The current facility at 70 S. Van Buren opened in 1977. A variety of restaurants and bars in Nashville continue the tradition of live music probably best made famous in the region by Bluegrass performer Bill Monroe in the nearby community of Bean Blossom.
The Brown County Art Barn had two locations, Nashville and Indianapolis, and featured selected original oil landscapes and seascapes, pastels, water colors, and sketches. Also offered were oil portraits and custom landscapes by Judie Hurt and American natural barn siding and imported hand-carved frames. The Nashville gallery was opened during the fall season only. The Trilogy Gallery, a large front gallery with studio pods attached behind the building, offered original works in glass, metal and wood designed and created by local craftsmen. Both were opened by about 1970.
Artists were not the only ones aware of the region's scenic beauty offering respite and appreciation for nature. During the 1920s, in large part due to conservation measures, the federal government began to purchase large tracts of land around Nashville. Ultimately, much of these lands became home to Brown County State Park, established in 1929. While the park opened just as the Great Depression gripped the country, the park benefitted from improvements such as cabins, lodging, and other amenities through the Civilian Conservation Corps. As the Depression ended, visitors to the state park began to take note of Nashville just as artists had. Maybe most notable was an investment in the Nashville House by Jack Rogers and Fred Johnson. The men purchased the building, already known as a longstanding tradition in the village, in 1926 and made substantial improvements to enlarge the building for rustic dining, lodging with 23 rooms, and social functions. The men had a vision to capitalize on the area's heritage by promoting it to tourists and providing a rustic charm in the village setting among the hills. The Nashville House burned in 1943 but reopened in 1948 as a gathering space and restaurant. It became a notable hub for tourists flocking to Brown County State Park on newly-opened Highway 135, which shifted the main north/south corridor through town from Jefferson Street to Van Buren Street in the mid-1930s. Where the lack of rail service "preserved" Nashville, auto tourists had ready access to Brown County.
The village began another transformation, building off of its arts and rural culture, to accommodate tourists visiting Brown County State Park and to artists' studios and galleries in the surrounding countryside. This transformation affected its architecture as well, using the Park Rustic style found at the park to apply to new commercial enterprises, particularly those lining Highway 135. A set of three small shops on South Van Buren Street opened during the 1940searly 1950s to offer homemade treats and crafts to visitors to the county. One is the Jack and Jill Nut Shop, a longtime fixture in the village, and another was named "The Totem Post" which opened in 1952.
Building off of the Nashville House's success, other restaurants and inns opened during the 1940s-1950s. Motels listed in the 1946 telephone directory for Nashville included the Abe Martin Lodge (in the state park), North Gate Motel, Orchard Hill, Singing Pines (15 units), and Village Motel (10 units). The latter two were both located on Main Street (old State Road 46) east of the courthouse. The restaurants included the Colonial Room (no longer extant), Garden Sweet Shop, Nashville House, Old Hickory Inn (61 S. Van Buren), Pine Room Café (88 N. Van Buren), and Thickston Restaurant. The Gables Restaurant (30 N. Van Buren) advertised "all are welcome at the Gables — tourists or townspeople" in the 1956 telephone directory. The town's transformation included gift shops as well, including Heritage Shop (41 S. Van Buren, circa 1955) which offered early American furniture and accessories, and the Candlemaker's Shop (157 S. Van Buren) which offered candles made on the premises, opening in 1965.
With the influx of tourism, the town's general commercial character changed from stores offering typical merchandise, such as clothing, hardware, and pharmacies to those more engaged in the hospitality industry as well as the folk art tradition of crafts and other hand-made trades. Not an exception was the village post office, which had been located at 68 E. Main Street for a few decades before it constructed its new facility immediately adjacent to the former location in 1959 at 90 E. Main. The post office then relocated east of the district and the 1959 building currently houses a custom furniture store. The building into which the bank relocated to the south side of West Main in 1919, still functions as a bank, though it only uses a portion of the original building. The Professional Building, part of the Rogers family's vision, opened in 1966 on the northwest corner of Main and Van Buren Streets. At the time it opened, it included a savings and loan company.
A study conducted in 1970 for a regional sewer district included a breakdown of occupations which shows statistical increases and decreases of individuals engaged in professions between 1950 and 1960. The study clearly shows the growing influence retail commercial trade and crafts played in the county, as well as a significant decline in farming.
The study listed the following cultural-historical sites located in Nashville: Brown County Art Gallery, Old Log Jail, Brown County Art Guild Gallery, and Brown County Play House. The commercial establishments were listed as follows: Colonial Restaurant (no longer extant), Abe Martin Lodge (at the state park), Nashville House, Ramada Inn (opened circa 1970 on Highway 46), Sorghum Mills, and Gift Shops. In 1976, the Old Log Jail and Museum, along with the courthouse, were nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, the formal listing occurred in 1983. A few other historic buildings were added to the small complex named Pioneer Village which opened in 1972 and became an important destination for tourists visiting Nashville.
With the state's bypass of State Road 46 from Main Street to the south edge of town about 1962, though slow at first, the hospitality industry seemed to follow the highway with development of large hotels such as the Ramada Inn and Brown County Inn in the early 1970s. Large commercial development also followed with the construction of a grocery store, hardware, fast food franchises, and gas stations into the 1990s. By the early 1990s, however, the shift reversed itself and the village again boasted new restaurants and lodging accommodations.
There does not appear to be another community in Indiana that could be considered an historic arts and tourism district. There are notable individual sites significant for art or tourism, under the area of entertainment/recreation, however, no single district in the state provides tourism in historic context, with added significance by the arts, as does the Nashville Historic District. A few historic commercial districts have developed an arts or tourism destination focus, offering hand-made items or specializing in the hospitality industry. But these are late 20th century transformations rather than early-to-mid 20th century, historic, developments that also impacted the community's architectural character.
Other comparable communities may be found outside of Indiana at gateways to National Parks. National Register-listed districts like Williams, Arizona, highlight the commercial area's importance gained from tourism to the Grand Canyon during the early-to-mid-1900s, as well as the city's place on famed Route 66. Architectural themes pay homage to the rustic with natural materials invoking the same intentionality found in Nashville. Dueling interests between commerce and historic architecture is familiar in commercial districts, fewer are those that also have pressure from tourism-a battle to balance both sustainability and historical integrity. The Nashville Historic District has achieved this important balance and has put measures in place to ensure the preservation of its historic character and resources.
The Nashville Historic District's architecture is a unique blending of 19th and early 20th century styles and types with the Rustic Revival style that emerged during the 1940s and has come to symbolize the village's rich culture. While there are just a handful of examples of 19th and 20th century styles, Rustic Revival dominates the district's streetscape and points back to the earliest extant architecture in the village. There are a few important examples of the Greek Revival style including the courthouse. Italianate, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles are represented. Many of these were applied to common house types during the 19th century including gabled-ell, side-gabled, and I-House types. These styles will each be described later. A number of simple gable-front houses, some classified as Bungalows, were built in the district during the 1920s- 1940s to accommodate a boom in population, many by a single man named Fred Rains. A few modest-scaled side-gabled houses were also built in the district during the 1950s-1960s.
A few single examples of styles include the Late Gothic Revival-styled First United Methodist Church (1910) located in the southwest corner of the town square. It has steeply-pitched gables and Gothic-arched windows of stained art glass, both typical of the style. The largest historic commercial building in the district is the shared Masonic/Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall which reflects the Neoclassical style. The three-story brick building located in the southeast corner of the square was built in 1910 and features projecting bays on each corner, regulated bays of windows, and a nicely-detailed stepped parapet. Again, all typical but simple features of the style. Modern architecture boasts an important example at 145 S. Van Buren. It is the original Trilogy Studios built in 1970. The square building, raised on a recessed brick base, has a whimsical appearance with bands of windows and a tall, double-hipped pyramidal roof that ascends to a spire.
Greek Revival was the dominant style of American domestic architecture between about 1830- 1850 during which its popularity led it to be called the "National Style". The style was particularly common in areas of rapid development during the 1830s-1850s. There was increasing interest in classical buildings in the United States at the close of the 18th century based on Roman and earlier Greek examples found through archaeological investigations. As a young democracy, Americans sought to find precedents to establish their democratic ideals in the form of its architecture. Rome and particularly Greece, provided these precedents because of their early experiments in democracy. Two factors enhanced the Greek influence in the United States: the Greek War for Independence during the 1820s and 1830s and the American War of 1812. The Greek War found sympathetic citizens in the United States and the American war with the British in 1812 lessened the interest in British architecture. The Greek Revival style seemed only appropriate for a nation undergoing a new experiment in governing, called democracy, that had philosophical roots based on Grecian models of governing.
There are three equally-good examples of the Greek Revival style in the district. The oldest extant example is the former Methodist parsonage located at 95 S. Van Buren, constructed circa 1840. The one-story brick building features a simple, formal symmetrical arrangement with six bays on its front façade, 6/6 windows, and entablature with cornice returns on its side-gables. Judge Hester constructed a two-story I-House version of the same style in 1853, in wood, at 190 N. Jefferson. The house features an entablature and cornice returns visually supported by corner pilasters. A grand gesture of the style is its twostory porch with pediment supported by a row of four Doric columns, square. Though ebbing in popularity, the Brown County Commissioners selected a simple Greek Revival design for their brick courthouse when it was constructed in 1873-74. It has a simple, formal elegance with regulated two-story bays of windows divided by pilasters. The gable-front building features cornice returns and roundel centered in the gable. The simple, two-part square cupola rises at the front of the building's ridge.
The Italianate style was popular between 1850 and 1880, particularly in Midwestern towns where the expansion of railroads brought wealth to communities and created a building boom during the period. The style traces its roots to England as part of the Picturesque Movement; the movement rejected formal classical ideas of art and architecture that were popular for 200 years. The Picturesque Movement emphasized rambling informal Italian farmhouses, but as the style entered the United States it was often modified and embellished into a truly Americanized style. The first Italianate house was constructed in the United States in the late 1830s. The style was popularized by house pattern books by Andrew Jackson Downing during the middle part of the 1800s, but its popularity began to wane as it began to be replaced by the Queen Anne Style in the last decades of the 19th century.
The district features two good examples of Italianate architecture. The oldest example is a twostory, frame, gabled-ell house located at 96 S. Van Buren. The Bartley-Gibson House has simple features of the style, most notably the 2/2 windows with their cornice hoods with pointed centers. The Frank Taggart House at 24 N. Jefferson is a more typical example of Italianate. The two-story, side-hall house is also frame and features the same window hoods as the Bartley House. It has the added refinement of a decorated cornice with scroll brackets and dentils as well as an elaborate, covered entry. Both the Bartley and Taggart houses feature a slight flare to their eaves.
The Queen Anne style was popular between 1880 and 1910; it was named and popularized by a group of 19th century English architects led by Richard Norman Shaw. The historical precedents used had little to do with the Renaissance style popular during Queen Anne's reign; rather they borrowed from late medieval examples of the preceding Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Spindlework popularly used with the style and free classic subtypes are American interpretations and became the most dominant form of the style in the United States. Changes in taste and a rise in popularity of Colonial Revival led builders to simplify the Queen Anne style after the turn of the century.
The district has five examples of this style, ranging from simple applied details on cottages to an elaborate two-story version. The two Queen Anne cottages are located at 145 S. Jefferson and 172 N. Van Buren. They are both gabled-ell houses with porches on the inside, front corner of the ell. The porches have turned posts and spindlework friezes. The house on Jefferson also features a projecting, three-sided bay with cutaway corners. These homes were built between about 1885 and 1900. The examples located at 90 S. Jefferson and 57 W. Franklin are both twostory, frame houses with simple features of the style including a cutaway first story bay on the Jefferson example and gable trim on the Franklin Street example. The best example of the style in the district is the T. D. Calvin House located at 102 S. Van Buren. The two-story frame house features shingle work, trim, and fan-lite windows in its gables. It also features several porches and a balcony with turned posts and spindlework friezes. The front entry is angled toward the intersection (northeast) and accesses a gazebo of turned posts, spindlework friezes, and small brackets that support a steep conical roof covered in patterned wood shingles.
Another style with a comparatively high presence in the district is representative of the trend in residential design away from American or European precedents during the early 1900s. Craftsman-Bungalow architecture broke from revival styles. The Craftsman style was inspired in part by the work of brothers Charles and Henry Greene in California. Their work spanned from 1893 to 1914; in 1903 they began applying Arts & Crafts details to simple bungalows that quickly became popularized by several home magazines of the period, including Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman. The term bungalow originates in India where it refers to a low house surrounded by porches. The American form of the bungalow was publicized in California. The Craftsman style spread quickly through the country as an acceptable and desirable style for the growing middle class in quickly developing suburbs. These homes were further popularized in pattern books and other home magazines, as well as in local newspapers. The bungalow form and Craftsman style were popular from about 1905-1935.
There are a number of gable-front houses, some may be further described as Bungalows, which were built in the district during the 1920s-1950. Many of these were built by Fred Rains who likely used repetitive house plans. There are a total of sixteen small, one or one-and-a-half story gable-front houses in the district built between about 1920 and 1950. Most are constructed using molded concrete block for their foundation and clapboards (sometimes now covered with vinyl). Most feature simple front porches. A few are constructed of wire-cut tile blocks (orange in color), including an interesting example at 136 N. Van Buren which was built as a duplex about 1925. Fred Rains built side-by-side Bungalows at 31 and 41 N. Johnson Street. These are very nearly identical to side-by-side Bungalows at 94 and 74 South Johnson Street at the opposite end of the district. The houses at 41 N. Johnson and 74 S. Johnson both feature jerkin-head roofs and front porches. The houses at 31 N. Johnson and 94 S. Johnson both feature cantilevered three-sided bays on one of their sides and front porches, as does an example at 96 S. Jefferson. The example on Jefferson also features 4/1 Craftsman style windows while the example at 94 S. Johnson features 3/1 Craftsman windows.
The Colonial Revival style gained popularity after the Bicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 where it was heralded as an expression of the American identity. Planners of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago also called for pavilions that emulated American colonial architecture. The style became increasingly popular in the early 1900s and remained a desired style through the first half of the twentieth century. This early 20th century revival of the style borrowed directly from Colonial America's buildings in form and ornamentation.
The Colonial Revival influence on the district's architecture is minimal, but includes one important example, the Nashville Christian Church located at 160 S. Van Buren. The large, gable-front brick building was constructed in 1932 with a raised portico, full-round arched windows, quoining, and a nicely-detailed steeple with octagonal lantern. A front-gabled, two-story house located at 12 S. Jefferson is a Cape Cod version of Colonial Revival architecture with dormers on its north-facing façade. Two small cottages (late 1930s-early 1940s) influenced by the style are located at 36 W. Franklin (with rear studio) and 135 W. Gould. Both one-story houses feature minimal traditional features and simple cottage style multipane windows. Features of the style persisted in the district, influencing mid-century house makeovers, such as the school-turned-residence at 191 W. Main, and even in the cupola/vent of the district's latest contributing property (1973), an apartment building at 161 N. Jefferson where the architect blended some traditional features with Rustic Revival features so prevalent in the district.
Park Rustic/Rustic Revival By far the most prevalent style in the district relates to a few factors and influences that converged in the village between the 1920s and 1940s. In 1929, Brown County State Park was established east of Nashville and through the 1930s, under management of the Civilian
Conservation Corps, the park's architecture and built-landscape began to reflect what was happening in the rest of the country in National Parks and other state parks. Built of local, natural materials such as brown sandstone, rough-sawn wood and logs, Brown County State Park's buildings and landscape features were part of a style that came to be known as "Park Rustic." This was the term for using local materials for simple building construction, and while it often had characteristics of the Craftsman Style, it related more to primitive building than higher refinements of Craftsman architecture.
As the number of National Parks grew in the early 1900s, and visitors to the parks began to grow due to better access with the Good Roads Movement, those responsible for the protection of the parks had a difficult balance to strike. How do the parks provide structures to service visitors without the structures overpowering the experience? The adaptation of local materials into structures became the answer. This "park rustic" architectural style grew in popularity in the United States from the early part of the 20th century into the 1940s. It saw its most prolific use during the Federal Relief projects of the 1930s. The style, which focused use of locally-derived natural materials, became a common architectural style of many of Indiana's state parks and our national parks. In Albert Good's 1935 book on park design, Good described the effort to introduce architecture into the park system as "the subordination of the structure to the environment". 20 He references the appropriate use of materials, including the rustic style, to their surroundings. Good states that if used successfully, the style, through the use of native materials in proper scale, avoidance of straight lines and over-sophistication, gives the feeling of having been executed by pioneer craftsmen with limited hand tools. The rustic style "thus achieves sympathy with natural surroundings and with the past."
The style was part nostalgia and part frugality as builders scavenged farm fields and forests for boulders and trees to incorporate in building design. By the 1930s, when workers with the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps were building small and large structures for state and national park systems, the buildings evoked the spirit of pioneer life and the great Westward Expansion. This experience may have been somewhat nostalgic for those times as the "wilderness" of the United States had been tamed by the early 1900s. The style often included whole-log construction, though typically stripped of bark, for lodges, cabins, and other tourist-related structures. Stonework composed of rubble or fieldstone, river rock, and ashlars that could have been easily gathered and mortared into place were used for foundations, porches, chimneys, or whole wall construction.
While the style dominated parks throughout Indiana and the nation, it had very little influence in commercial design or public buildings beyond park settings or park gateway communities such as Gatlinburg, Tennessee and West Yellowstone, Montana. Brown County already had a proclivity to building early 20th century log residences, a result of the artist colony influence that grew from T. circa Steele's relocation to the region in 1907. Small one- and two-room cabins with rubble-coursed brown stone foundations and chimneys began to dot the hills and hallows of Brown County during the 1910s-1920s. While many of these cabins have traditional Midwestern
influence of hand-hewn, dovetail construction, other cabins were influenced by Adirondack and Northern Great Lakes regional construction of whole log-on-log (typically pine or cedar) construction. Certainly, many examples of 19th century cabins remain in the county, including two in the district located at 15 and 60 North Johnson Street. The cabin at 60 N. Johnson is the oldest extant building in the district, constructed in 1832. The example at 15 N. Johnson is similar and was built in 1885. The former Brown County Jail, of log construction, dates to 1879 and is located in the district northeast of the courthouse. It should also be noted that the two-story cabin located on the museum grounds was an early barn reconstructed as a Community Building in 1927/1935. This cabin-building tradition among artists and respite-seekers alike continued into the 1940s with a modern resurgence continuing into the 21st century.
In 1934, a state road was established north out of Nashville on Van Buren Street which shifted commercial activity from Main Street to the more heavily traveled road, and from the town's original north/south corridor on Jefferson Street. St. Agnes Catholic Church (now Brown County Presbyterian) constructed a hewn-log church immediately north of Nashville on the new highway in 1940 and appears to be the first non-residential building, outside of the park, constructed in the Park Rustic style. Within the district, commercial building started anew on Van Buren Street in post-Depression and post-war Nashville as merchants wanted to capitalize on the tourism industry that the state brought down Highway 135 to Brown County State Park.
Nashville's buildings began to reflect the rustic character of buildings found at the park to attract motorist's attention. This seems to have first occurred with a small strip of buildings at 74 S. Van Buren constructed between about 1940-1952. Using boards and battens, live-edge clapboards, and random-coursed brown stone, the three buildings were small merchant shops popular with tourists. However, what likely became the real catalyst for new construction in town occurred when the Nashville House, a large, popular restaurant and lodge with a Colonial Revival porch burned and was reconstructed to its current appearance at 15 S. Van Buren in 1948. The building, designed by architect Edward James, reflects both the rustic qualities popular with tourists and Mid-Century styling. The low-pitched gabled building features a combination of materials including brick, board and batten, and brown stone (possibly from a small shop previously located on the premises). This is blended with modern materials such as concrete with horizontal banding and large, corner windows. This building forged a "Rustic Revival" in the village as envisioned by the Jack Rogers Family, which has led to nearly two dozen buildings built in the style and remains popular in Nashville today.
During the 1950s, five more buildings were constructed in the style, also referred to as Modern Rustic, including The Gables restaurant at 30 N. Van Buren (1952), the Pine Room Tavern at 88 N. Van Buren, Old Hickory Inn at 61 S. Van Buren (corca1950), and studios for artists at 90 W. Frankli. Several of these buildings incorporated the region's famous brown-colored sandstone, which was available at a local quarry named Brown County Stone Company into the 1960s. The Pine Room Tavern, in keeping with its name, features pine log construction on its first story and boards and battens on its second story; the circa 1890 building was enlarged in the remodeling campaign circa 1950. When Indiana Bell constructed their maintenance facility at 116 N. Jefferson in 1955, the company selected heavy timbers to frame bays and rubble-coursed brown stone walls to maintain the community's new-found identity. Even the United States Post Office added rubblecoursed brown stone in its wide bay when it was constructed at the east edge of the district on Main Street in 1959 (right side of. Most of these buildings have some blending of natural materials including rubble-coursed brown stone, boards and battens, live-edge clapboards, and heavy timbers-particularly lintels and sills. Two other small gable-front commercial buildings followed in the early 1960s, maintaining the use of rubble-coursed brownstone and boards and battens in their gables (58 E. and 58 W. Main). The Candle Maker's Shop, a long-standing shop at 157 S. Van Buren, used the style when it converted a house to its shop and studio circa 1965.
One of the most important buildings of the district constructed in the style came in 1966 on the northwest corner of Main and Van Buren Streets, diagonally opposite of the Nashville House. The two-and-a-half story Professional Building (features brick gabledend sections and rubble-coursed brown stone on the walls facing in toward the intersection. The large brown sandstone blocks were from foundations of buildings previously on the site. The building reflects traditional massing and fenestration organization, but materials, particularly porch canopies, in the Rustic Revival style. The latest contributing building in the district also gave nod to the style when the architect selected random-coursed brown stone and heavy timber purlins on an apartment building located at 161 N. Jefferson. It was built in 1973. As stated before, the style remains popular in the district today, though blended with 21st century modernism. Two pavilions located on the town square were built in the style in 2011 and 2017, and the town constructed a comfort station in the style at 87 W. Mound Street in 2003.
† Kurt West Garner, Joshua Biggs/Indiana Landmarks, Peaceful Valley Heritage, Nashville Historic District, nomination document, 2021, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Franklin Street West • Gould Street • Honeysuckle Lane North • Honeysuckle Lane South • Jefferson Street North • Jefferson Street South • Johnson Street • Locust Lane • Main Street East • Main Street West • Mound Street • Old School Way • Printers Lane • Van Buren Street