The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County officially announced plans Monday morning for its recent purchase of the McConnell House property that stands next door to the nonprofit’s office in downtown Franklin.

Inside the walls of what had originally been a jailhouse for 36 years and later served in a variety of other iterations, Heritage Foundation President and CEO Bari Beasley revealed to an audience of board members and other community leaders that the 6,400-square-foot building will be known as the History & Culture Center of Williamson County

“We envision it to be Williamson County’s first state-of-the art, interactive exhibition space dedicated to telling its comprehensive county-wide history while honoring and sharing stories of the people, places and events that comprise the fabric of our community to date and influence our state and nation,” Beasley said.

“We intend to create a nationally recognized center for pursuing intentional discoveries, creating authentic experiences and engaging diverse community audiences.”

The building was first used as a jail from 1905-41, and years later had been home to a community center, the Matrix Enterprises cable TV company, Battle Ground Brewery, Monell’s Restaurant and the McConnell House event venue and catering headquarters.

The Heritage Foundation bought the property in March, and immediately began making plans for how the building will be used as the History & Culture Center of Williamson County.

Exhibition concepts are not finalized at this time, but will endeavor to support a mix of consistent and rotating experiences that may include explorations of Native Americans, African Americans, pioneer families, Revolutionary and Civil War periods and the evolution of the county over generations, according to a press release. The Heritage Foundation plans to utilize the building to host educational events for the community such as local and national speakers, workshops, field trips and symposiums.

Of significant note, and as previously reported, the purchase of the McConnell House and its capability for hosting events mean that the Heritage Foundation will no longer need a new facility at its Franklin Grove Estate and Gardens across town. 

“Franklin Grove will move forward with its plans to celebrate history, art, nature, education and entrepreneurship,” Beasley said, “with a museum of art, beautiful natural gardens, the innovation center, educational space and the historic Lee Buckner school.

“And since we now own this particular building, there is no reason to build a hall or seek rezoning [from the city of Franklin] at Franklin Grove.”

The Historic & Culture Center, which joins Franklin Grove, the Franklin Theatre and the Downtown Franklin Association as a division of the Heritage Foundation, is expected to be available for private event rental starting in July, with historic exhibition experiences scheduled to begin in spring or summer of 2023. 

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