Oh, the Nashville Centennial

Things I have learned tonight:

1. There was a Nashville centennial celebration in 1880. The exposition hall was at the corner of Broadway and 8th Avenue South, where the federal courthouse is now. This should be so very close to Ben and Sue Allen’s house that I can’t help but wonder if I might find pictures in the metro archive.

2. Nathaniel Baxter Jr. lived at 117 North Spruce. The Allens, who were Ed Baxter’s in-laws (Ed being Nathaniel’s brother), were at 125 South Spruce. Perhaps we could put Nathaniel on the list of potential runners away from the Thing.

3. Colonel Colyer’s description of Jere Baxter (another brother–Jones, Nathaniel, Edmund, and Jere were the ones I know about, but it looks like there may have also been a Montgomery and a sister, Mary) in the History of Nashville, Tennessee about makes me blush. Whew, some folks really loved that guy.

4. Looking at other houses in town, I think the thing that makes me nervous about my tentative floor plan is that a lot of the houses look deeper. And certainly Ben would have had a library. But he had to have a garden out back because we know he had a workshop in his garden out back in which he made his jewelry.

5. The authors of History of Nashville, Tennessee seem struck in wondrous awe that Black Bob ran the best tavern in the town and was friends with white people who even came to his house for dinner. It just goes to show you that things can get worse. Not that you’d call life for black Americans great in the 1790s, but the fact that white people in the 1890s were like “what is this strange thing? Who would be friends with a black guy? How could you possibly even go to his house for meals?” is pretty depressing.

6. People used to bury people in the public square but they had to put a stop to it because they didn’t bury them very deep and the bodies would come back up. And, I presume, be eaten by the pigs that seemed to roam around town for much of our history.

7. Speaking of livestock, the fence around Vanderbilt was to keep the cows out. Ha ha ha.

8. Most histories I’ve read of Jere Baxter gloss over how kind of shitty the end of his life was. But here’s something funny. When Jere Baxter died, his friends put up a statue of him where Broadway and West End intersect. One of his detractors then put a statue of John “I’m a haunted thumb at the Tennessee State Museum” Murrell put up at Centennial Park to indicate that Jere Baxter was no better than a horse thief.

I wonder where that statue of John Murrell is now…

Edited to add: I’m kind of bummed more people don’t sit on the roof of the capitol nowadays.

A Tourist in My Own City

It’s supposed to rain all weekend, but I hope not, because I want to go play tourist all over town, looking at Italianate things. The folks over on Twitter gave me some great stuff to look at in addition to what’s in the comments on the last post.

Check out the Merritt Plantation house on Humphreys St. I wonder if the Allen house had a porch like that or if they had a balustrade. It looks like it was a balustrade by the time the house was torn down.

There are a couple of houses here on 5th Avenue North that look like they might be useful to look at.

And another person sent me a link to a chapter from the Architecture and Interior Design from the 19th Century: An Integrated History, Volume 2 about Italianate design. check out the blueprints for the Morse-Libby House in Portland, Maine (I thought for a second this was Stephen King’s house, but a Google search says “no.”) It’s not quite like the Allen house–the porch and the fact that that music room sticks out way in front of the vestibule. But it has some interesting similarities–the vestibule, for instance. I’m guessing the Allen house had such a Persian Room (whatever that is) or at least a small sitting area there above the vestibule. I also think it’s likely that there was a long parlor on the left side of the Allen house that was fairly narrow. It’s hard for me to guess exactly about the set-up of the right side of the house. We know there was a dining room, because that’s where the seances were held and I’m guessing, if we can take the stories about the Thing seriously, that the dining room must have been right to the right as you came into the main hall (otherwise it would have been difficult for the person who was chased by the Thing to spring up from the table and out the front door, pausing only to grab his hat.

Here’s my guess, and I’d like to hear your speculation (if that’s your thing). Enlarging the Allen photo to look at the chimneys, does it not look like the chimney on the right is less-ornate and further back? I’m willing to argue that that’s the kitchen chimney–that the kitchen was in the house, adjacent to the dining room.

I think something like this:

Things, Including the Thing Things

1. Wislawa Szymborska is dead, which is sad. Though 88 years isn’t a bad run. The poem at this link is a good representation of her talent. Note how it kind of starts off being a poem you think you’re just going to kind of have to stop reading after about ten lines, just to say you “read” it when really it didn’t do anything for you. But right about the time when you feel justified in saying “oh, that’s nice” and moving on to something else, it starts to get a little weird and wonderful and not what you started with.

2. I thought this whole post was funny, but I’ve been laughing about the horse listening to NPR  all morning. Am I wrong to think that Full Metal Jousting would be improved 100% if the horses were really strange characters who had to listen to a certain amount of NPR a day? The guys would be all “I’m going to knock his tattoos off” and the horse guys would be “Not until after Morning Edition, you’re not.” Maybe it’s a schtick that would cease to be funny after three shows, but I kind of doubt it.

3. Yes, I did take a picture of a poor photo copy of a newspaper page containing a picture I wanted you to see. With my iPhone. In the natural light in my bedroom. So, yes, basically, it’s like an ink blot test. Some of you will see a house. Some of you will see a horse who listens to NPR. I hope most of you will see how cute little Ben Allen was.

Anyway, as you know, I’m trying to get a feel for the layout of the house the Allens were all seancy in. Here is the picture I have. And my question for you Nashvillians and Middle Tennesseans is whether you recognize this house. Not this house, obviously, since it is long gone. But have you seen another house either in town or within easy driving distance that looks like this? Note that the entrance isn’t square on the front.