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Visit Franklin’s Treasures: Museums and Historical Points of Interest in Williamson County, Tennessee

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Visit Franklin’s Treasures: Museums and Historical Points of Interest in Williamson County, Tennessee

Lotz House Museum

Franklin and Williamson County, Tennessee, are treasure troves of history, boasting well-known landmarks alongside hidden gems waiting to be explored. Established in 1799 and named after Benjamin Franklin, the city of Franklin serves as a centerpiece of history with its Civil War legacy, notably the Battle of Franklin, and a mix of sites that tell stories of both struggle and growth. History buffs can immerse themselves in the region’s past by touring significant Civil War sites, strolling through historic neighborhoods, and delving into engaging museums.

Beyond the popular attractions lie lesser-known sites offering unique insights into Franklin’s past. From tucked-away battlefields to meticulously preserved heritage sites, these hidden treasures enrich the narrative of the area’s history, making it a fascinating destination for those who visit Franklin and those lucky enough to live here.

Battle of Franklin Trust

Battle of Franklin Trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the American Civil War, particularly focusing on its impact on the people of Franklin, Tennessee. It operates three historic sites: Carter House, Carnton, and Rippa Villa, which offer daily guided tours. The Trust’s mission extends to educational programs, special tours that delve deeper into Civil War history, and community engagement through memberships and donations.

Carter House, built in 1830 by Fountain Branch Carter, served as a Federal command post during the battle. The Carter family sought refuge in the basement as intense fighting raged around their home, which still bears bullet holes and other battle scars. Today, the house is a museum showcasing Civil War-era artifacts and narrating the story of the Carter family and the battle. • 1140 Columbia Ave, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 791-1861 •

Carnton was the home of the McGavock family and functioned as a field hospital during the Battle of Franklin. Built in 1826, it became a sanctuary for wounded and dying soldiers. The McGavock family later established a Confederate cemetery on their property, which remains one of the largest privately owned Confederate cemeteries. Now a museum, Carnton offers guided tours and exhibits focusing on the Civil War and the McGavock family. • 1345 Eastern Flank Cir, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 794-0903 •

Rippa Villa, located in Spring Hill, Tennessee, is a historical gem tied to the Civil War. Built in the early 1850s by Nathaniel Cheairs, a major in the 3rd Tennessee Infantry, the property was the site of the Battle of Spring Hill, just before the Battle of Franklin. Today, Rippa Villa offers tours showcasing its history and architecture. • 5700 Main St, Spring Hill, TN 37174, (931) 486-9037 •

Lotz House Bedroom

Lotz House

Lotz House was the home of Johann Albert Lotz, a master carpenter who immigrated from Germany. The house, built in 1858, showcases Lotz’s remarkable craftsmanship through its exquisite details and elegant woodwork. The Lotz House played a pivotal role during the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. During the battle, the Lotz family sought refuge in the basement of the Carter House, located across the street, while their home sustained extensive damage. The house still bears bullet holes and cannonball scars from the battle.

Today, the house operates as a museum, offering insights into the Lotz family’s history and the impact of the Battle of Franklin. It houses a significant collection of Civil War artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, and personal items from soldiers. The Lotz House underwent restoration to preserve its historic features and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Guided tours of the Lotz House highlight the history of the Lotz family, the house itself, and the Battle of Franklin, providing a deep dive into the area’s rich history. The house is centrally located in downtown Franklin, making it easily accessible for visitors interested in exploring the city’s historic landmarks. • 1111 Columbia Ave, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 790-7190 •

McLemore House

The McLemore House in Franklin, Tennessee, is a significant historical site that highlights the area’s rich African-American heritage. Built in 1880 by ex-slave Harvey McLemore, who became a successful farmer and landowner, the house is a testament to African-American achievements during the post-Civil War era. 

The house was restored and opened to the public as a museum in 2002, preserving its historic character while showcasing its significance in African-American history. The museum features exhibits that tell the story of Harvey McLemore, his family, and the broader African-American community in Franklin, including historical artifacts, photographs, and documents​.

Located in the Hard Bargain neighborhood, one of the oldest African-American communities in Tennessee, the McLemore House Museum not only preserves history but also serves as a cultural heritage site, offering educational programs and events that celebrate African-American culture and history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, which promotes awareness of African-American history in the area. • 446 11th Ave N, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 224-3140 •

Moore Morris History and Culture Center

Moore-Morris History & Culture Center

At the Moore-Morris History & Culture Center, visitors can explore the region’s rich history and culture through engaging exhibits and immersive storytelling. Housed in a historic building dating back to 1905, the center showcases the social, economic, and cultural history of the county, highlighting its regional and national influence.

The center features exhibits spanning various periods, including The Emerging Commercial Union, showcasing the agricultural and plantation life leading up to the Civil War; Managing Townscapes, highlighting local business evolutions post-World War II; and The Industrial Landscape, detailing the post-Civil War industrial boom facilitated by railroad expansions. These exhibits utilize interactive technologies, enhancing understanding and appreciation of Williamson County’s historical impact. • 108 Bridge St, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 640-8111 •

Nolensville School Museum

The Nolensville Historical Society Museum, located in Nolensville, Tennessee, is housed in the historic Nolensville School building, which dates back to 1937 and represents early 20th-century architecture. The museum highlights the history of Nolensville and the surrounding area, covering topics from early settlers to modern times. Its exhibits showcase artifacts, photographs, documents, and memorabilia that offer insights into the town’s agricultural roots, community life, and significant events. Visitors can explore various themed rooms including the Historic Classroom, 1937 kitchen, and more, alongside rotating exhibits and collections of Girl and Boy Scout memorabilia. • 7248 Nolensville Rd, Nolensville, TN, 37135 •

Williamson County Archives and Museum display

Williamson County Archives and Museum

The Williamson County Archives & Museum in Franklin, Tennessee, is a fascinating place for history enthusiasts. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of Williamson County, with records dating back to its founding in 1799. It’s housed within the Williamson County Archives, where historical documents and other items of value are carefully collected and made available to the public.

The museum features a range of displays and exhibitions that highlight the county’s rich history and development. You’ll find collections that delve into the events, people, and communities that shaped Williamson County. The Archives Reading Room is open to researchers during regular business hours. Whether you’re into genealogy or historical research, the staff is there to assist you both in person and remotely. 

The museum offers interactive activity books and scavenger hunts for children and adults and occasionally hosts events and programs. • 611 W Main St, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 790-5462 •

Off The Beaten Path: Uncovering Hidden Historical Gems

Not all historical treasures are housed within the confines of museums. In Franklin and Williamson County, Tennessee, history is as much a part of the landscape as the rolling hills that define it. This region is rich with sites and landmarks that tell the stories of its past outside the typical museum setting. Here are some notable historical sites in the area.

Eastern Flank Battlefield Park

Eastern Flank Battlefield Park

Eastern Flank Battlefield Park holds significance as a preserved segment of the battlefield where the pivotal Battle of Franklin unfolded during the American Civil War. Covering about 110 acres, the park offers a blend of historical interpretation and outdoor leisure, with walking trails meandering through the battlefield, complemented by interpretive signs narrating the events of that fateful day in 1864. 

Visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquil surroundings, pay homage to the soldiers who fought bravely, and gain a deeper understanding of the battle’s impact on American history. Beyond its historical value, the park provides amenities such as picnic areas and event spaces. Managed by the City of Franklin and preservation organizations, Eastern Flank Battlefield Park stands as a testament to the sacrifices made during the Civil War and serves as a lasting tribute to the enduring legacy of those who fought for their beliefs. • 1368 Eastern Flank Cir, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 794-2103 •

Fort Granger

Fort Granger is a historic site and city park that offers a glimpse into the area’s Civil War history. Constructed in 1862 by Union forces, the fort was strategically positioned on a hill overlooking the Harpeth River. It served as a key defensive stronghold for Union troops, particularly during the Battle of Franklin in 1864, where it played a crucial role in the Union’s defense, providing artillery cover over the surrounding area.

Today, Fort Granger is part of Franklin’s park system and spans 14 acres, offering a blend of historical and natural attractions. Visitors can explore the remnants of the fort through walking trails and interpretive signs that provide context about its Civil War significance. The elevated position of the fort also offers scenic views of the Harpeth River and the surrounding area. Access to Fort Granger is through Pinkerton Park, where the well-preserved earthen fortifications and the interpretive displays offer a look into the region’s past. • 113 Fort Granger Dr, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 794-2103 •

Franklin Walking Tours

Franklin Walking Tours offers guided historical tours in Franklin, Tennessee, providing visitors with a unique way to explore the town’s rich history and charming streets. Their tours include the Franklin Charm tour, which explores the town’s history and concludes with a treat at a local sweet shop. The Grim and Ghostly tour delves into haunted stories of the historic district. Tombstone Tales is a seasonal tour featuring costumed actors in historic cemeteries. The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who bring history to life with engaging narratives and local insights. For those interested in a more personalized experience, private tours tailored to specific interests like Civil War history or local crime stories are also available. • 114 E Main St, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 604-7171 •

Franklin Theatre Interior (1)

The Franklin Theatre

The Franklin Theatre, located in downtown Franklin, has a rich history dating back to 1937 when it was originally built as a movie house. For decades, it was a cherished local landmark, known for its distinctive marquee and community-focused events. However, the rise of home entertainment led to its closure in 2007. 

In 2008, the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County rescued the theater, restoring it to its original Art Deco style while modernizing its facilities. Reopened in 2011, the Franklin Theatre now provides world-class performing arts experiences to Williamson County residents and visitors and serves as a platform for local philanthropic engagement and education. The theatre is also available for private events and rentals. • 419 Main St, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 538-2076 •

The Factory at Franklin

The Factory at Franklin is a historically significant site with an industrial past and a vibrant present as a mixed-use complex. Originally serving as the Dortch Stove Works in the 1920s, the site has long-standing industrial roots. The complex’s red-brick architecture showcases early 20th-century industrial design.

In the late 1990s, The Factory at Franklin was transformed into a mixed-use space, maintaining its historic character while adapting for retail, dining, entertainment, and office use. This setting is not only a cultural and community hub, featuring shops, restaurants, and event venues, but it has also earned recognition for its historical preservation. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has received Awards of Excellence from the Tennessee Association of Museums for its historic programming. These awards celebrate the Factory’s commitment to preserving and showcasing local history through various events and exhibitions, making it a unique blend of history, culture, and commerce. • 230 Franklin Rd, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 791-1777 •

Winstead Hill Park

Located just south of downtown Franklin, Winstead Hill Park is a site of historical and recreational importance in Franklin, Tennessee. This landmark played a key role during the American Civil War, serving as a strategic vantage point for Confederate General John Bell Hood during the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. From this elevated position, General Hood directed his troops, and today, visitors can experience the same panoramic views of the battlefield and surrounding countryside.

The park spans around 61 acres and features several amenities for visitors. It includes walking trails that offer an excellent opportunity for exploration, along with interpretive signs providing detailed information about the Battle of Franklin and its significance. The park also features picnic areas where visitors can relax and enjoy a meal while taking in the scenic views. Additionally, there are historic markers and monuments throughout the park, commemorating the soldiers and the events of the battle. • 4023 Columbia Ave, Franklin, TN 37064, (615) 794-2103 •

Battle of Franklin Trust Cannons

Exploring Williamson County’s Heritage: Museums and Historical Sites in Franklin, Tennessee

Franklin and Williamson County embody Tennessee’s rich heritage, showcasing its historical significance and commitment to preservation. Each museum and historical site offers a unique window into the past, from the fierce battles of the Civil War to the significant achievements in post-war reconstruction.

Whether you are a history aficionado or a curious traveler, these sites provide a comprehensive insight into the heritage that shaped this region. Discover these historical treasures and experience firsthand the stories and legacies that continue to resonate within the heart of Williamson County, Tennessee.