Preservation News: Historic Preservation a Focus for Tennessee in 2019

Tennessee has made it clear to its citizens and to the country – historic preservation is a priority for 2019.

The Lotz House, known for the damage it received during the Battle of Franklin, was saved from demolition by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, Tennessee. Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County.

In Franklin, the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County made it public that they support the creation of a statewide tax credit to encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings and structures throughout the state. This kind of program would grant up to 20% income tax credit for preservation projects. On average, these programs grant $6 billion of tax credits each year for preservation nationwide.

Surprisingly, Tennessee is one of 15 states that does not offer a tax credit incentive for historic preservation. Through a similar federal tax incentive, over 1,000 buildings were saved in Tennessee according to the Executive Director of the Tennessee Historic Commission. Just in Williamson County, 135 structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many with ties to the Battle of Franklin. There are many other communities in the Volunteer State dotted with historic buildings that need saving. And like the town of Franklin, many have Civil War connections. Tennessee could save hundreds of structures.

It is also important to note the economic benefits of a statewide tax credit program for historic preservation. Renee Kuhlman, the Director of Policy Outreach for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, states, “It’s mainly about job creation. They see countless construction jobs, but they like the businesses going into the buildings.” According to Sam Whitson, state legislator, “It increases our property value, [and] it just makes this a very special place to live. It would be great if we’re able to help those who help preserve our community and historic structures.” In other words, historic preservation sparks growth, increases morale, and builds community pride.

The Fallen Timbers Battlefield site. Courtesy of David Duncan, American Battlefield Trust.

On the federal front, Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn introduced a bill this month to expand Shiloh National Military Park in Hardin County and Corinth, Mississippi. A major expansion proposal, this act would add Davis Bridge, Fallen Timbers, and the Russell House to the park. Parker’s Crossroads battlefield would also be added to the National Park Service System as an affiliated area. According to Blackburn, “Expanding Shiloh National Military Park and giving these sites the resources needed for their upkeep is a crucial part of maintaining Tennessee’s military history.”

We hope to hear more about these preservation efforts in Tennessee, as well as other projects throughout the country.

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