Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Barn at Cal Turner's Farm

C2hristmas-time has brought a new tradition to those who travel down Franklin Road (U.S. 31) in Brentwood, TN (which is a suburb of Nashville). As a traveler, the stream of fancy businesses turns into newer mansions, and then appearing is a wide-open space that looks like it has been preserved in time. From behind a small hill and a green fence emerge an old barn with a mural of the star of Bethlehem giving light to several barnyard animals.

Cal Turner's Christmas Barn

Everything I have written on this blog to date has been for barns with advertisements painted on the barn. This one is different. Nothing is being advertised, but instead, the season is celebrated. The barn isn't painted, but instead, a 400-pound mural is carefully unwrapped and placed on this barn every December. After Christmas has passed, The mural is carefully taken down and put into storage not to be seen for another 11 months.

The farm now belongs to the Turner family. Cal Turner, Sr. was the founder of the Dollar General. Cal Jr. succeeded Sr. as president of the company but also has taken over the farm. Brentwood, like many cities has seen much growth over the decades, and many of the rural areas around the farm aren't rural anymore. Many real estate developers are anxiously waiting for the day this prime land can be turned into more mansions, or maybe even more retail stores. But for now, it's remains a farm and the 60 year old barn serves as a reminder as what life was like in the area decades ago.

Closeup of Christmas Mural

The 48' x 38' over-sized Christmas card was first seen in 1996. Turner Jr. commissioned local art-teacher Chris Tibbot to paint the mural. However, the art is not going to last forever. The painting is fragile since it is exposed to the elements. in years past, they had decided that they couldn't put it up anymore. So far, though, they think it can make it one more winter. This might be the last year it is shown or maybe next year, they'll bring it out for the last time again. Even the barn has become a concern. It was built in the 1940's, but over the years, it has slowly deteriorated to the point where now it's not used for anything other than the yearly display. A fierce storm came through this year that uprooted some of the nearby trees, but the barn held on.

Cal Turner's barn

Other things of note from the barn. On the left is a portable light which will illuminate the barn some nights during the season. The animals in the painting are sheep and donkeys and one white Charolais cow, which used to bred on this farm and were known as "Cal's cows." The large radio tower which is about a mile away is the signal tower for WSM 650 AM, the legendary station which has been the "home of the Grand Old Opry." At the time of the tower's construction in the 1930's it was called the tallest radio tower in the world. I'd like to get a picture at night, but so far, the light hasn't been on any time I've driven by.

See it on the map HERE. If you live in the area and are thinking about seeing it for yourself, this really could be the last year it's up, and they could take it down the day after Christmas.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Changes and Preservation

C2hange happens. People move from the country to the city. Companies go out of business. Industries become less important. Traffic patterns change. Highways get more traffic than they can handle. In the case of Brown County, Ohio, two U.S. Highways change their route. Left behind is a Rock City barn that hasn't been updated in decades.

Some Rock City barns do not change for many decades


At some point, It was decided that since both U.S. Highways 62 and 68 are both going to Ripley, that they should be merged together and form one bigger highway to accommodate the rising traffic demands of both. A couple miles north of the town square in Georgetown, OH, U.S. 68 is routed to the east of town. Several miles down the road, it multiplexes with U.S. 62 and heads towards Ripley, OH. When it was just U.S. 62, the highway ran strait into Ripley and became Main St. However, with the increased traffic, the new highway runs mostly parallel with the old one and gets to Ripley a couple thousand feet on the east side. I am not sure when the change was made, but the oldest map I have of the area, made in 1966, doesn't reflect the update.

What do you see, when you drive the old main street out of Ripley along this once important road, but is now nothing more than a residential street? There's a run down vacant hotel. You see an abandoned gas station. It's mostly houses. The area is too hilly to have any kind of farmland, yet there is a barn. Perhaps a petter description would be a shed. This is the view you get when coming from the south. (The first thing you'd notice about this barn is the quilt pattern.)

Quilt pattern on the back of an old Rock City Barn

This barn is big enough for a good lawnmower. The land it's on isn't even flat. If you look closely at the first picture, the front center support as well as the front right corner is held up by a stack of rocks! It makes me wonder if the right half of this barn is even usable for anything.

Even more curious is something that made me take a second look when I was re-examining the pictures at home. The word Chattanooga is misspelled! The "n" is missing. The word there is Chattaooga. Is this a mistake? Quite possible, but you can't quite assume that either. There were stories of one of the Mail Pouch Tobacco barn painters who would intentionally misspell a word. He would wait to hear from the corporate office to see if any of the locals was paying attention and report the mistake. When the misspelling was (usually) reported, the painter would revisit the barn and repaint the word to correct it. Did that happen here? I don't know. Maybe "Chattanooga" wouldn't fit in the allotted space.

Street level view of a Rock City Barn

One final view of the barn to share is this view. When traveling southbound on old U.S. 62, this is the first look at the barn you'd get along the windy and hilly road. The top of the barn comes directly into view strait ahead. Then you drive over the top and the road veers to the left.

On, this is designated as #RCB 35-08-01.
In the Jenkins book, this is on page 81 (in the book in the 1995 picture, the weeds were so tall in front of the opening to the barn, it was probably difficult to get the mower out.)
To see it on a map, click Here.
Lat & Lon: 38 46.05oN \ 83 48.96oW