Historic downtown Clarksville offers a resurgent collection of fashionable shops and restaurants, but the structures in which these businesses are housed also have a rich past that many believe should be well documented and remembered.

That’s the goal of a new project local curators are calling “Clarksville Then and Now.”

As part of this effort, they are collecting old photographs of downtown structures as they once appeared with their previous or original occupants.

These images are to be displayed on plaques that will be permanently affixed to the corresponding buildings in order to remember the past, while celebrating the present and the future.

Ellen Kanervo, executive director of the Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council, said this is a project spearheaded by AHDC board member and local photographer David Smith, who will be a perfect marriage between history and modern revitalization culture.

First photo of the Lillian Theater, 100 Franklin St.

“Over the hundred-plus years these brick buildings line downtown Clarksville, they have housed dozens of businesses, selling everything from groceries to furniture, clothing, medicine and fountain drinks,” Kanervo said.

“‘Clarksville Then and Now’ will offer visitors views of what downtown looked like fifty or a hundred years ago, and tell some of the stories of the businesses that have occupied these buildings over the years,” it said. she declared.

Kanervo said that when Smith pitched the idea of ​​featuring scenes from Clarksville’s past at the AHDC, other AHDC board members were enthusiastic in their support of the project.

“David led the development of ‘Clarksville Then and Now,’ securing sponsors, photography and permissions from owners,” she said.

The former Elder-Conroy Hardware Co., 94-98 Franklin St.

The Montgomery County Archives then became a partner in the project, and County Archivist Jill Hastings-Johnson, along with AHDC board members Brenda Harper and Carolyn Ferrell, researched the history of the buildings to give visitors to the city center more information.

Kanervo said AHDC board member Jordan Burns is designing the “Clarksville Then and Now” webpage and brochure for the project, and Len Stolz added information about the current owners. buildings.

Smith said he got the idea for “Clarksville Then and Now” while visiting downtown Silva, North Carolina, once. Over time, he discovered that other communities were also carrying out similar projects.

What was once Montgomery Ward, at 111-113 Franklin St.

“I came back to Clarksville and talked to Ellen Kanervo, Mayor (Joe) Pitts and Mark Holleman about it, and they all thought it was a good idea,” Smith said.

“Through this project, there will be a plaque on every building on Franklin Street, initially, with a vinyl photo of the building from its peak on the front of the plaque, project logos, and a QR code to search for the building history electronically.

“We planned to do about 20-25 plaques at first. Downtown is changing so much and there are a lot of exciting things happening, including the F&M Bank Arena which is being built, and the new stores and restaurants that are here. or on the way,” Smith says.

“But as all of this happens, I just felt like we can’t lose sight of what was once here. It will hopefully be a nice project, and the plaques will probably be in place by then. end of this summer. We hope it adds even more interest and historical context to downtown,” he said.

After the first wave of plaques on Franklin Street, Kanervo said AHDC hopes to expand the project to other downtown streets “as we discover more images and construction stories.

Previously at 213 Franklin St.

“If anyone has any information or photographs to add to the project, we’d love to have some help,” she said.

Harper encouraged broader community participation. “Jill Hastings-Johnson, Len Stolz, Jordan Burns and I are helping with the project with input from many others. We continue to research photographs of downtown buildings from an earlier era,” she said.

Some of the major initial sponsors of the Clarksville Then and Now project are Clarksville.com Realty; Clarksville Foundry; Coldwell Banker Conroy, Marable & Holleman Estate; Byers & Harvey Real Estate; and F&M Bank.

For more information, email contacts include Kanervo at [email protected] and Harper at [email protected]

Contact Jimmy Settle at [email protected] or 931-245-0247. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription to TheLeafChronicle.com.