by Henry Swain
Sixty years ago Nashville was a sleepy small town whose tourist shops could be counted on one hand. State roads 135 and 46 intersected at a stoplight at the courthouse square in the center of the village. State Road 135 from Indianapolis and State road 46 on to Bloomington were prime-standard highways much as they are today.
Roads 46 and 135 shared right-of-ways for five miles east toward Columbus where 135 went south with 46 continuing to Columbus. These roads were sub-standard, winding, narrow, black-topped with some one-lane bridges. Despite poor access from the east, Brown County State Park drew thousands of visitors each year. Nashville’s and the County’s economy were closely tied to tourism as they are today. Early in the 1970s the State replaced 46 east to Columbus and brought it up to a prime-standard concrete highway.
These improvements allowed tourism to flourish and the economies of Nashville and the county to expand. Instead of a few shops, restaurants, and lodgings there now number over 200. In 1950, Washington Street marked the south end of the village. Ogle’s Garage and McDonald’s Chevrolet dealership occupied what is now Camelot Square and the recently abandoned Family Fun Center. Carl Walker added a new IGA grocery beyond Ogle’s Garage a few years later.
East of the Courthouse at the corner of Old School Way was Keith Taggart’s Sinclair service station. Across the street west of the Courthouse was Jimmy Davis’s Marathon station where the Tucker building now stands. A few years later, a Gulf station was located at the corner of Gould and Van Buren, now occupied by Iris Garden Gallery.
Bob Greg and George Tucker had a lumber and building supply store north of Gould Street which burned. It had gas pumps in front of its offices making four service stations in downtown Nashville. Clarence and Carson Roberts purchased the property and rebuilt on the lot as Roberts Brothers Lumber Co. which later burned and was replaced by a two story complex of shops which also burned and was never replaced. It is now a parking lot owned by the Brown County Historical Society.
Harold King had a grocery, the Star Store, at the corner now occupied by the Professional Building. Three doors west of King’s grocery was the Rogers Grocery which burned one cold winter day.
The building of the new highway to Columbus and the Salt Creek Shopping Center a mile east of Nashville began to re-shape the use of downtown Nashville properties. No longer were needed the stores and service stations that provided the basic necessities of a small town. These properties were often converted to shops catering to tourists.
Our village has continued to experience growth while many small towns in rural areas are withering. We are fortunate to be geographically located in an area of natural beauty within easy access to urban areas making our community a desirable area to visit, relax and for retirement living. In many ways our location is simply the grace of good luck.
Nashville lies midway on the baseline of a triangle, Indianapolis at the apex with Columbus and Bloomington equidistant either way on the base. The realtor’s motto: Location, Location, Location, certainly applies to the economic prosperity of our community.
Burt Perdue recently held a public meeting showing his plans for a new town on the former Ski World property which he estimated would take fifteen years to complete. He envisioned the project fitting into a ‘Conservancy District’ development rather than as a new incorporated town. What will Nashville look like in another sixty years? The prospect will likely exceed the projections of our imaginations today. We can project trends into the future but almost always the future surprises us.