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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nashville, 1878. On Sidewalks and Providing Shade Coverage AKA Can We Really Still Be Talking About the Same Issues 137 Years Later?

As far back as 1878, as the text below shows, Nashville has recognized that we were deficient in sidewalks and lacked good tree coverage.




Appreciating the value of trees as an aid to sanitary progress, the Board on March 27, 1878, passed the following resolutions, introduced by Dr. Plunket, the subject matter of which is still pending before the City Council :

Whereas, The Supreme Court of the State has recently decided the sidewalk law (see McAlister's Digest, p. 170, ch. 43) to be constitutional and binding, thereby throwing the responsibility upon the Mayor and City Council if hence-forward Nashville has not good pavements from center to circumference;  

Whereas, Trees, besides being quite ornamental, are of the highest sanitary importance, since through their leaves and young buds they neutralize by absorption the malarial exhalations from the soil, and imbibe deleterious gases, such as carbonic acid, ammoniacal compounds and those arising from poisonous putrefaction, and return to the air oxygen, an element essential to the life and well-being of all animal existence; 

Whereas, Trees equalize the temperature to a sensible degree by exhaling large volumes of vapor into the air, by protecting the earth from the direct rays of the sun, and by preventing solar irradiations, and therefore are of very great value to cities where the sidewalks and streets become excessively heated, as in Nashville during the hot sultry days of our protracted summers; therefore, be it

Resolved: That in view of the facts above set forth, the Board of Health do respectfully petition the Hon. Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance offering a premium, as is done by many Continental and American cities — recently by Richmond, Va. — to all who may plant and successfully rear shade trees in front of their premises; or, making it obligatory upon all who may hereafter rebuild or construct new sidewalks, to plant near the outer edge of each pavement such character of shade trees and at such distance apart as the Board of Health may direct.

In carrying out these views, by request of the Board, Dr. Gattinger has prepared a report full of scientific and practical information, which will be found in this volume.

It is earnestly hoped that our people will at once second these views. The comfort and good looks of our city will be very much enhanced by their doing so. Take Broad street for example, and its handsome extension, in all a wide avenue some two miles in length, almost bare of shade, and hot as a furnace in long summer days. A row of fine forest trees on each side would make it a splendid drive, a nice walk, and enhance the value of the property tenfold the cost of the trees.

All Nashvillians who travel much are painfully impressed by the contrast between our own centrally situated town, and those either to the north or south of us, in respect to ornamentation of this description — their wealth and our poverty of foliage. The only way of accounting for it is the feet that the original site of Nashville was a cliff and ridge — a cedar glade indeed. This did not favor to planting. And then immediately beyond this site the ground was crowned with forest trees of magnificent growth and various kinds. Nature had done enough. It was sufficient for man to enjoy. Time, especially the rapidly moving years of war, changed all this. Man's skill and labor must be called into the equation, that the wasted places thus made may be redeemed and embellished anew. By proper effort, in ten or fifteen years the city and vicinity may be completely transformed, and its bean spots of living green vie with those of New Haven, Cleveland, Columbia or Savannah.


Shade Parade Nashville = 
Tree Lined + High Quality Sidewalks + Highly Utilized

Makes my work seem like a broken record when I read that Nashvillians were fighting for better infrastructure and comfort measures such as lining sidewalks with trees as remotely as the 1800s!   

It is sharply felt and stated with much regret that our deficiency in sidewalks was acknowledged over 100 years ago and yet we still find ourselves in the same position.  

Is now the time to finally act?  

Could the next mayor, be our hero, and change this???
Could the commitment come from Council???

I encourage you to pose this to the mayoral candidate and to the individuals on council and running.  


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