The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County announced Wednesday, Nov. 3, its opposition to the Milcrofton Utility District’s legal petition to condemn part of the historic Holly Tree Gap Farm to seize and develop it.
The Heritage Foundation comes in defense of one of the last remaining historic farms in the county, situated on either side of Holly Tree Gap Road, which includes a stretch of the Middle Road — the original thoroughfare that first linked Franklin to Nashville as early as 1799. This comes as the Save Holly Tree Gap petition notches over 1,700 signatures in defense of the land, about 300 of which having come within the last six days.
“The mission of the Heritage Foundation is to preserve and protect the rich cultural heritage of our community, and the Menefee-Byrd farm is one of those historic places we will advocate to protect," said Heritage Foundation CEO Bari Beasley.
"Milcrofton’s pursuit of the Holly Tree Gap land not only disrespects private property rights, but it also disregards the historical significance of this special site that sits well outside of their service district.
“We are asking the Milcrofton Utility Board to reverse its decision and find an alternative location for their water tanks that will not destroy a historically significant piece of Williamson County’s history.”
The utility district’s petition was filed in the 21st judicial district's circuit court on Oct. 22 with a request to acquire the 1.73 acres of the property for $86,500 via eminent domain.
Milcrofton intends to develop the space with two water reservoirs tanks, each about two stories tall and each bearing the capacity for a million gallons. The Byrds — Andrew and Marianne Menefee — have committed to fight the petition in court, which pits Tom V. White of Nashville-based, powerhouse law firm Tune Entrekin and White P.C. against Milcrofton’s representation at Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings PLLC., also based in Nashville.
The Heritage Foundation has worked to preserve Williamson County’s historic sites and elements since 1967, along the way promoting revitalization in Franklin’s Historic Downtown for the sake of historic preservation. This year in particular, for example, the institution bought the historic Franklin Grove property on which the LeHew Mansion now houses the new Franklin Innovation Center, which repurposes old space for incubating startups and thereby preserves the locale.
Now the foundation aims to increase awareness about the historicity of Holly Hill Farm and Holly Tree Gap Road in the Brentwood-Franklin border region.
The Civil War Battle of Nashville on Dec. 15 and 16, 1864, preceded Confederate General John Bell Hood leading his Army of Tennessee to Franklin to reach the Holly Tree Gap the next day and fight Federal regiments — suffering significant losses to the tune of some 250 captured and an unknown number of injuries and casualties while Federal forces suffered 22 deaths and 60 wounded.
“The Menefee-Byrd farm is a historic property located along the earliest established transportation corridor that connected Nashville to Franklin. This historic corridor and the generational Menefee-Byrd farm connected to it must be protected,” foundation Senior Director of Preservation and Education Rachael Finch said in a press release.
“The historic significance of this naturally occurring hollow cannot be understated. Due diligence has not been considered by the Milcrofton Utility Board, including a full historic survey, complete with an archaeological and environmental assessment to determine historic and cultural resources located within the parameters of the proposed placement of water tanks.”
Holly Tree Gap Farm now joins the foundation’s preservation conquests to date — The Franklin Theatre, the Old, Old Jail and Roper’s Knob — and thereby will attract increasing attention from the county’s preservationists and affluent landowners. The public taking attempt has already alarmed county officials.