While there are many things that have occurred in the long history of the area that is now called Brentwood, there are five events that all others crystallize around. The ancient Native American settlers known as the Mississippian Culture, that settled in the area from about 1050 AD until 1450 AD, knew the land was ripe for farming and building a village of families. And a village of families it is once again. Each of these five events brought about a defining moment, upon which the structure and vision of the city have been built creating the city it is today. In our continuing coverage of Brentwood’s 50th anniversary, we explore these events.
Some may say that this is a ‘duh’ statement. After all, the American Revolution created the country. But it had a direct impact on Brentwood, as heroes of the war from North Carolina were given grants to the newly settled land that became the city. From these land grants came sprawling farms built by gentlemen tied to the development of the state. These farms became Pleasant Hill, Cotton Port, Midway, Mooreland, Wildwood, Cool Springs, and Mayfield.
These were cultured men who brought families. With families came the need for schools and the founding of the educational system that is still strong today. Schools like the Bell School and Boiling Spring Academy came about to serve the children and grandchildren of these men.
For more about these land grants and schools, read A Snapshot of Early Brentwood History.
2.Building of Churches
Faith has long played a part in the building of Brentwood. These churches have helped their followers through the hardships of early settlement, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and many social upheavals that have come with changing times.
Liberty United Methodist Church was founded in the 1790s by Revolutionary War veteran Green Hill. It led to the creation of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. It served as the foundation upon which other churches were built, including the first church building, called John’s Chapel.
Other churches were to follow, including Brentwood United Methodist Church, Owen Chapel Church of Christ, Old Smyrna Methodist Church, Brooks Memorial Baptist Church, and Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church. Mt. Lebanon was the first African-American church organized by former slaves after the Civil War in the Hardscuffle Community. Life in Brentwood revolved around these churches and still does at many of them and their successors.
Learn more about the Hardscuffle Community by reading Hardscuffle Community Ended as Today’s Brentwood Began.
3.Low-Density Zoning Law
The low-density zoning law is about more than just a law, it is about a vision that the founders of Brentwood had for the community. They wanted it to be a safe place to raise families. They wanted to keep it residential. Brentwood Board of Commissioners has kept their focus squarely on that early ideal.
From the initial vision has sprung a system of parks, bike and walking trails, and a limited number of retail and commercial areas. It has brought about the complete conversion of the Old Hickory/Franklin Road area into a dining and shopping mecca.
Coupled with the development of I-65 in the mid-1960s, home building in Brentwood exploded. It gave close access to the city of Nashville, without a need to live in the city, allowing for more land on which to build a home.
Want to know more about the Low-Density Law? Check out, Brentwood’s Low-Density Law Has Made All the Difference.
Putting Maryland Farms on this list covers two important items that have meant a lot to Brentwood, horses and the office park.
While horses, both American Saddlebreds and Walking Horses, are famous in the state, Brentwood became a center for Saddlebreds in the 1930s and 1940s when J. Truman Ward, owner of WLAC radio, bought an initial 100 acres of land just south of Old Hickory Road and named it Maryland Farm after his wife.
In 1941, he bought seven mares and a stud named American Ace. He became the sire of the premier Saddlebreds in the country in the 1940s, bringing the farm to the notice of the nation.
When American Ace died, Ward turned to cattle raising. Then in in 1958, the farm was leased to Edward Potter, President of the Tennessee Thoroughbred Training Association. From 1959 until 1971, the land housed a training facility and the Brentwood Derby, sponsored by the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce.
After much controversy, the land was sold to create Maryland Farms Office Park, and the first office building was constructed in 1974.
More information about the development of Maryland Farms can be read in the story, The Maryland Farms Office Park Controversy.
What this really symbolizes is the importance of the County Music industry to the area. Not only did Eddy Arnold, the country star of the early days, invest heavily into the infrastructure to get Brentwood home building started, but he also got a movement going for country stars to own a home here.
Without the strong signal of the WSM Tower, Nashville would not have become the home of country music. The tower completely changed the landscape of the Nashville MSA. Nashville, once known as the Athens of the South, and a mecca for the learned, became the home of country music, bringing talented singers, writers, producers, and many more to the area.
You could say that Brentwood gave Country the kick it needed to launch and has supported the industry in many ways ever since, often without even knowing it.
More WSM information can be found in WSM Tower Made Nashville Music City.