Planned subdivisions give a lot of people the willies. Maybe it’s the whole Stepford Wives thing or the perception that intentional communities are somehow less organic, more antiseptic than their less-purposeful counterparts.
But maybe after a while, the sheen wears off, and the perfect rows and perfect yards of a perfect neighborhood become beloved.
Thus it is with Sylvan Park, once a refuge from dirty downtown and now attractive because it’s so close to the central city.
In the late 1880s, a Buffalo land speculator named Henry Pierce bought up four farms and laid out plans for New Town — what we would now call a mixed-use development — on what was then just outside the western boundary of Nashville. Pierce financed a railroad spur, delineated spaces for businesses and homes and laid out a park — Richland Park — that is still there.
His foray cost him his life savings — he eventually sold the spur to the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad for a 5-cent train ticket — but his legacy lives on in one of Nashville’s better ’hoods.
From James Robertson’s land grants to Pierce’s vision to its status as the capital of West Nashville, Sylvan Park’s history gets the Images of America treatment in a new book from authors Yvonne Eaves and Doug Eckert.
The sepia-toned Images of America volumes — familiar to any browser of a bookstore’s “Local Interest” section — are always chock-full of photos and social history, and are commendable for their ability to tell an entertaining and informative story of even the smallest enclaves.
The Sylvan Park volume meets the standard, but because much of the neighborhood has gone largely unchanged in the past 100 years, the points of interest are still easy to find. Cohn School looms over Richland Park. The ornate houses, once home to preachers and business leaders, stand — and with a recent uptick in renovations, are often restored to former glory.
In another nod to the neighborhood, the authors will be signing copies of the book Feb. 8 from 5-7 p.m. at the charming watering hole McCabe Pub, and on Feb. 19 from 1-3 p.m. at the historic Cohn School.