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History of Fort Nashborough in Nashville, TN

Fort Nashborough

Fort Nashborough replica circa Oct. 1958. | Photo via Tennessee State Library and Archives

Table of Contents

In the heart of Music City — right off Broadway and within earshot of cheers at Nissan Stadium — sits what looks like something right out of the eighteenth century. How familiar are you with Fort Nashborough? Let’s dive in.

The backstory

Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Land Company purchased a large plot of land from the Cherokee Nation in 1777 — most of which comprises present-day Middle Tennessee. James Robertson, a leader of the Watauga Association, scoped out the land two years later after Henderson’s claim and deemed it a suitable settlement.

Flash forward

On Christmas Day that same year, Robertson traveled across a frozen Cumberland River, constructed cabins for temporary housing, and perched a fort atop a bluff along the river. The fort was named Fort Nashborough in honor of Francis Nash who fought with Robertson in the Battle of Alamance.

Fort Nashborough today

You can visit the Fort Nashborough Interpretive Center at Riverfront Park. | Photo by @citylinedrawings

Clashes

A group called the Chickamauga Cherokee opposed the settlement purchase and issued a warning. Violent attacks plagued the fort, including ones that killed two of Robertson’s brothers + two of his sons. By 1791, Robertson was appointed brigadier general of the US Army for his region by President George Washington. Attacks on the settlement eventually decreased, population rose, and the community prospered.

Today

In the 1920s, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution began planning the City of Nashville’s Sesquicentennial celebration. They wanted to honor Nashville’s original settlement + educate residents and visitors on its history. The city provided the land and a project to recreate the original fort was funded.

In 2011, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as an important Colonial Revival site, and Metro Parks began the process of planning a new facility. Construction began on the Fort Nashborough Interpretive Center in 2016, and the third replica reopened as a free downtown attraction in 2017.

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