HISTORICAL RESEARCH AND EXISTING CONDITIONS
Nashville Figure Ground, 1889 (left), Nashville Figure Ground, 1908 (center).
The Civic Design Center documented broadly the history of the area through archival research and analytical drawings. Initial drawing studies, figure- ground drawings, illustrate the changing building fabric and explore the relationships of building mass, scale, street patterns, and orientations historically. The figure-ground drawings simply depict building footprints and space without buildings. Like many other urban core neighborhoods, the study area experienced a dramatic change in its building fabric from a large number of small buildings compactly
spaced to fewer and larger buildings widely dispersed. The most important effect of this change over time, from an urban design perspective, is that the public space, that space mostly not characterized by buildings, is less defined.
Due to the density of the building fabric and the compact patterns found in the historical drawings, one can visualize quite easily the intricate public space that once existed. For example, in the 1889 figure-ground drawing, the intersection of Jefferson Street and 5th Avenue North is clearly delineated,
Werthan Bag Factory
Jefferson Street & 5th Avenue North
Nashville Civic Design Center Report: The neighborhoods north of downtown Nashville page 6
Nashville Figure Ground, present.
while the drawing of the present conditions reveals a public space that is vague. The comparison is not dissimilar, in many respects, from the comparison of a well-defined urban street, such as 2nd Avenue North downtown, to a suburban street, dominated by parking and one story buildings.
In addition to the historical figure-ground studies, the Design Center surveyed the neighbor- hoods in conjunction with the Metro Historical Commission. The study area, one of the first areas to be settled in Nashville, contains many historic