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VOL. 44 | NO. 40 | Friday, October 2, 2020

New Jacksonian proves to be aesthetic, financial win

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A condominium located within the Jacksonian development sold last week with no controversy or fanfare. Beginning with Andrew Jackson’s election to the office of President of the United States in 1829, when he implemented his policies that came to be known as the Jacksonian Democracy, controversy has attached itself to the term Jacksonian.

The current Nashville residential version of the Jacksonian is an unassuming structure resting across the street from Montgomery Bell Academy on Harding Road, only a few feet from where the thoroughfare changes its name from West End Avenue. It is an ironic tribute to Nashville’s original Jacksonian building that was built in 1917 on the corner of West End and 31st Avenue South, the current home of a Walgreens.

What a difference 191 years make. When Andrew Jackson took office, he was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. In case you missed it, that is not a party these days.

Soon after his election, Jackson began a populist movement with such drastic measures as expanding voting rights to those who were disenfranchised. His measures went so far as to allow all white men to vote.

With his grasp of the Constitution, Jackson began to expand the powers of the presidency, often at the expense of Congress. He sought to include common people into government, opting for elected judges over appointees. His politics were intolerable to many within the Democratic-Republican Party, causing it to split.

In 1917, prominent Nashville architect Donald Southgate designed the building at the corner of 31st and West End, and it was dubbed the Jacksonian in honor of Nashville’s last President. This neo-Georgian edifice was the anchor to a neighborhood of affluence and the working class. The governor’s mansion was located down the street at 2118 West End Avenue.

Southgate, who studied at MIT, honed his skills in Boston and later Pittsburgh before migrating to Nashville, where much of his work remains on display today, mainly due to the fact that he designed so many churches. Despite our appetite for demolishing historical, iconic buildings, churches have dodged the blades of the bulldozers and the wrecking balls.

A master of varying architectural styles, Southgate designed West End United Methodist Church in a Gothic Revival style and chose a colonial look for the West End Church of Christ. He designed and went with Greek revival for St. George’s Episcopal Church in Belle Meade.

Among his works was the Thigpen Building that later served as the Free Will Bible College on West End. Perhaps the street should be renamed Southgate rather than West End.

While Andrew Jackson was no stranger to controversy, often attracting it rather than repelling it, his namesake building on West End was the subject of much debate in 1997 when its owner’s family decided to sell the apartment building to Walgreens.

The building was owned by some members of the Rochford family of construction fame and was in need of major repair and renovation. While the building was owned in part by the family of the in-laws of John Rochford, he was painted as the face of the ownership. The tired “greedy developer” term began to pervade the conversation.

In fact, the building needed at least a million-dollar facelift, and with mechanical, plumbing and electrical updates, perhaps the number would have hit $2 million. Such an investment would have taken decades to have been recouped in the 1997 apartment market.

Knowing what has transpired in the city recently, other, even more lucrative offers would have been presented to the ownership group.

Nonetheless, in spite of numerous public protests and uproar, the building was destroyed, and the Walgreen stands on the site until this very day.

A few years later, John Rochford, not unlike Jackson in chasing controversy, acquired the property at 4000 West End Avenue and made plans for a new condominium development. Such a real estate transaction was not unusual inasmuch as Rochford’s construction company had built hundreds if not thousands of homes in Nashville over the several decades.

Soon he announced he was naming the building “The Jacksonian” and reopened wounds from his previous endeavor. Additionally, it was a near replica of the other Jacksonian, even using the bricks from the old Jacksonian in the construction.

Even though there was nothing the neighbors could do about it, their feathers were ruffled. Metro had zoned that a 35-foot-high building could be built on the property, but Rochford wanted more height. At that point ruffled feather evolved into raised hair.

Through some wrangling with the state, he was granted permission to add the additional height. The modern-day Jacksonian is a well-built, beautifully designed structure that has paid dividends to its residents. The extra vertical footage did not affect the area.

Last week, Unit 201 in the Jacksonian sold for $1.15 million, or $325 per square foot. With three bedrooms, two full baths and a powder room, the 3,535-square-foot condo has nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings – something that required the extra height – along with three fireplaces and hardwood floors. Once inside, the premises have the feel of a traditional home.

The previous owner was one of the original buyers and had paid $675,000 in 2002. Those interested in Rochford’s current endeavors might want to take a trip to Stephens Valley off Sneed Road in Williamson County. The man has a target on his back.

To be fair, he put it there. He builds a good, solid house and has placed thousands of residents in his homes.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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