From the Nashville Tennessean.
Restoration of fort raises questions about its past
By BRAD SCHRADE
Public to get chance to help decide how Negley's story is told
The first phase of a $2 million restoration and interpretive history project at Fort Negley is expected to be completed in time for the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville in December.
But a central question for the Metro project is: ''What version of history will be told?''
The crumbling Civil War-era fort near Greer Stadium in south Nashville is the most prominent symbol of a watershed event in Nashville's history: its occupation by Union troops and the battle that marked a decisive defeat for the Confederacy.
City officials want to use the restoration project to create a tourist destination that they hope will make Nashville a center for Civil War tourism in the region. They brought together consultants, historians, archeologists and other interested history buffs Friday to begin piecing together a plan to tell this story and its various facets.
It was dubbed a ''stakeholders meeting'' and was the beginning of a broader public discussion that will take place over the next few months. Metro Parks Department officials will hold a public hearing within the next month or so.
Construction on Phase I is expected to begin in the next several months. It will include an interpretive path leading to the fort, which will be officially reopened to the public later this year for the first time in about six decades.
Phase II, to begin next year, will include a visitors center housing displays of the history of the fort and the war that are more in depth.
Some parts of the story that will be told were mentioned Friday, including the city's war occupation and its impact on daily life in Nashville; the life of Union troops stationed at the fort; African-American involvement in building the fort and as soldiers in the battle; the battle itself; and the Depression-era restoration of the fort.
It was clear from Friday's discussion that, almost 140 years after the fighting stopped, officials are sensitive to the fact that the fort and its place in the history of the war retain the potential for divisiveness.
''This is the elephant in the middle of the room,'' said Norman J. Hill, chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission and a member of an African-American civil war re-enactors group.
He said it was important that those directing the historical interpretation make sure they confront all the thorny issues involved with the history of the war and the fort. Otherwise, he said, controversy would follow the project. He said it was important that every- one remember that the restoration/interpretive history project could benefit all of Nashville.
Ann Roberts, executive director of the Metro Historical Commission, said the fort for a long time had been a symbol that for some represented a dark hour in the city's history. When the restoration project started about a decade ago, she remembers getting calls from some opposed to it.
''They absolutely wanted no money going into it because it was a Union fort.''
Consensus has emerged among various groups that the fort is an important piece of the city's history that must not be lost.
Doug Jones, executive director of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society, said this important historical architecture from the war was finally being rightfully preserved.
''This is an exciting opportunity. My group is excited. It should have happened 30 years ago and didn't, for a variety of reasons.''