Adding Sevier Park to Dowdle’s Community Park Construction Resume
When visiting Sevier Park near 12th Avenue South, you may notice an old mansion that sits on the property, which currently serves as office space for the Metro Historical Commission and Metro Historic Zoning Commission. To make the building more accessible and give the organizations more space, we are working with the Metro Parks Department and Dryden Architecture and Design on renovations to the mansion. Metro Parks chose us for the job because of our affinity for historic buildings and our expertise in community park construction.
The Mansion’s Long History in Nashville
Many park visitors probably don’t know the history behind the structure. Known as Sunnyside Mansion, it was built in 1852 for Mary Childress Benton, first cousin of President James Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress Polk. Benton lived in the log cabin while the main house was being built, and she decided to keep it on the property and incorporate it into the ell – a traditional frame building with two rooms downstairs and two upstairs on either side of a central hall – that’s now behind the main house.
She named the mansion for its sunny hillside location and lived in it with her widowed niece, Minerva Douglass, and her niece’s two children, Henry and Mary. Mary Douglass later lived in the house with her husband Frank Sevier, whose family name eventually became the namesake for the park, which was established in 1948.
The Renovation Project
The $4 million renovation entails constructing a new, larger parking lot and improving pedestrian access to the mansion. In addition, the project will connect the historic home with the ell building, which will be carefully demolished and reconstructed, preserving the original timber framing and architectural details. This will add about 3,000 square feet of space within the mansion. The renovations in and outside of the house total roughly 6,400 square feet.
With the number of renovations the mansion has seen over the years, it’s a major challenge to tie into the construction methods and materials used in previous centuries. On top if that, the goal is to preserve certain components, reuse those components and keep the original architectural features alive.
However, we are up to the challenge of bringing the vision to life, and we are excited to have a hand in the preservation and continued use of this 170-year-old home. Sevier Park is one of the most utilized community parks in Nashville, and the improvements to Sunnyside will allow the park’s centerpiece to continue to be part of the community for many years.
Construction is scheduled for completion in fall 2023.
Dowdle has worked on many other Metro parks and greenway projects such as Shelby Park, Fort Negley, the Richland Creek Greenway, the Clarksville Greenway bridge, Mill Ridge Park and Ravenwood Park. We have also been involved with several historical restoration projects around town including a Metro fire hall and a retail building for TV star Mike Wolfe.