Williamson County is one of the Southeast’s premier tourist destinations, thanks in no small part to its vibrant history. These days, state and local organizations keep that legacy alive through preservation and cultural programming so that everyone from nature lovers to Civil War buffs continue to make their way here from around the country and world.
Visitors to Franklin's Historical Landmarks
“I am just amazed every time I go out into the parking lot at one of our historic sites and just look at all the license plates,” says Jennifer Esler, president and chief executive officer of the Battle of Franklin Trust, a nonprofit corporation created to oversee The Carter House and Carnton Plantation. “Some of that is good marketing, but it’s more that our story is a national story. Civil War followers come here to see where the five bloodiest hours of the American Civil War took place, but they also visit and enjoy a lot of our other attractions.”
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has lent a helping hand, creating the Old Tennessee Trail as one of its multiple Tennessee Trails offerings. Visitors can find more than 80 different restaurants, shops, parks, communities, churches, and other attractions in and around Williamson County.
But for many visitors, The Carter House and Carnton Plantation are the big draws. Both were in the thick of the action on Nov. 30, 1864, and are the centerpieces of ongoing restoration and preservation efforts that include adding land to existing parks and graveyard sites, a new museum and more.
“We have a lot of ongoing reclamation and conservation plans,” Esler says. “We are hoping to renovate an empty state gymnasium next to the Carter House and convert it into a visitor and exhibition center, and the group Franklin’s Charge is working on reclaiming some land that could become a battlefield park. That land, and some that the city owns near Carnton, needs to be opened up to the public so that they can get out there and understand the action that went on during the battle. Once that’s done, we want to get some interpretive signage installed and help to create another powerful experience.”
These and other efforts are aided immeasurably by the fact that Franklin and Williamson County have so much more besides historical sites to offer, she adds.
“You have to have a really good product to promote, and also have good amenities like great restaurants and shops,” Esler says. “You also have to have friendly people, and beautiful countryside. Around here, it’s a home run. We have all of that, plus people who know the history who give tours and work with our visitors. It’s the whole package, and it’s only going to become more successful over time as we continue our conservation and reclamation efforts.”
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