The mysterious buildings

weird fairvue buildings

I upped the contrast on these buildings so that you could better see details. Noe how they just continue on down the road. Fairvue is behind me, so they line the road coming up to the house from the Nashville road. Behind them now is a golf course and then, down the slight bluff, is some backwater from the Cumberland river.

There’s a door on the bottom, small windows on each side of the bottom floor (they’re covered with a grate now, but I couldn’t tell how original that detail was). then, on the second floor, there’s a door (you can kind of see it behind the tree) and some slotted brickwork at the top. Here’s a closer view:


I had thought maybe they were pigeon coops, but why the hell would Isaac and Adelicia Franklin need like ten pigeon coops? I now have another theory. I think they’re tobacco barns. This guy took a picture of a slightly larger red tile tobacco barn in Georgia and it looks pretty similar. The only thing that makes me doubt this theory is that, if you look at that top picture, you can see that the third building down has no roof–it’s technically more a ruin than a building. And when I drove by, it appeared to have a second floor–not something a tobacco bard would need. Unless the staves were still in the building and when the wall caved in, it appeared to be a floor? I don’t know. I’m guessing some of you might.


10 thoughts on “The mysterious buildings

  1. I wondered about that, because they do look similar in set up to the slave quarters at Mulberry Plantation in South Carolina I found online (, but I didn’t see any chimneys on the Fairvue buildings and I couldn’t find any examples of slave cabins in Tennessee that didn’t have them.

    But it’s not like I got out to look at the backs of the buildings. The folks at Foxhall were all “Sure, take all the pictures you want from the outside. Just don’t cross the construction tape.” I couldn’t find anyone at Fairvue to ask and I was afraid to just stop for fear of being citizens’ arrested by old people if I got out of my car. So, there could have been evidence of chimneys back there.

    Or, christ, maybe the spaces in the bricks up top were supposed to ventilate smoke?

    There were buildings over by the Private Club parking lot that, to me, looked more like old slave quarters, which I think, too, is part of what had me confused about these.

  2. I don’t think they’re tobacco barns. At least, they don’t look like my family’s tobacco barns. When tobacco cures, the moisture has to go somewhere, and those buildings don’t appear to have much ventilation. OTOH, I would image you could do some fine smoking of hams in a closed up building like that.

  3. These are too small to be rickhouses, too (and I doubt that Fairvue was whiskey country anyway). They almost look like pump houses or some sort of rail-side facilities to me.

  4. I think they’re dark-fired tobacco barns. I’ve never seen any like that before, but I grew up in western Kentucky (Calloway County) where dark-fired is huge, each year barns catch fire and burn to the ground – seems that perhaps someone was trying to be innovative and build brick barns that were fire resistant.

  5. Nelson’s Mama, that’s kind of what I think. There are still people around here who do dark-fired tobacco, especially up in Robertson County, which is the next county west of where this was taken.

    I’m looking at this old barn for comparison:

    A rainy spring wait for autumn duties...

    It’s got a bottom door, two-stories tall, and holes at the roofline to let the smoke out. Seems very similar to what we have here.

  6. There’s a two-room log barn like that my grandfather built that’s in the woods behind my parent’s house – sadly it’s nearly collapsed, my Dad fired tobacco in it until I was sixteen.

    I really want to see “Farming in the Black Patch”, a documentary about dark-fired tobacco that’s on KET right now – looks like I’m going to have to purchase it though, can’t find it on-line anywhere. Here’s a link that talks about it:

  7. I’ve been giving it some thought and reading up on the history of the farm and it appears that it was used for horse breeding after the Civil War. So, I think it’s entirely possible that those buildings could have been used as mare barns then. I just don’t believe that would have been their purpose when the Franklins built the place. I’m still thinking bars for firing tobacco.

  8. The second floor is the minstrels’ gallery on which the tobacco bards sit to sing the tobacco into curing itself.

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