Site of Urban Renewal Project / Public Housing
Backstory and Context
During America and Franklin's urban renewal and public housing heyday, local public officials identified the Natchez Street district as one ripe for redevelopment. Some of the housing in the area was of very poor quality, with no indoor plumbing. Residents still obtained their water from backyard wells.
In 1953, responding to community pressures to deal with the need for affordable low-income housing in Franklin, the town's Mayor and Board of Alderman formed the Franklin Housing Authority (FHA). The FHA designated the Natchez neighborhood west of Columbia Avenue between Ninth Avenue and Fowlkes Street to be demolished for the first wave of public housing. Initially, when Natchez Street residents learned of the plan, the neighborhood banded together to resist demolition of the entire area.
Fifteen residents signed a petition expressing their "disapproval of the plan to relocate residents of the area in the clearance project." They stated, "that most of them have their homes already established, some of which were inherited from their parents." However, they were unable to fully stop the tide of urban renewal engulfing the city, and local authorities erected the first public housing project in the neighborhood in the late 1950s. The neighborhood's first public housing projects were built on twenty acres that had previously contained company housing for the Beasley Lumber Mill between Granbury, Strahl, and Carter Streets. The radical changes that the Natchez Street district experienced after 1958 during the height of urban renewal is an accurate reflection of the housing and urban planning policies that profoundly influenced cities and towns throughout the country.
The Natchez Street area also experienced far-reaching changes during the 1950s and 1960s resulting from urban renewal and subsequent public housing projects built during that twenty-year period. The neighborhood is currently bordered on three sides by public housing projects built beginning in 1958 through the early 1970s that are still in use. Behind the neighborhood, Columbia Avenue, once the recognized street for upper-class African-American homes, was developed in the 1960s and presently consists of a supermarket, discount stores, and fast food chain restaurants.