ABOVE: A crowd of about 40 people was on hand for the unveiling ceremony. // Photos by Vince Troia
By VINCE TROIA
In a quiet dedication ceremony on Wednesday, a solid reminder of Bellevue’s 200-year history was put on permanent display.
Before a crowd of about 40 residents, some descendants of the area’s founders, the newest Metropolitan Historical Commission marker for District 22 was unveiled. Placed near the railroad tracks at Old Harding Pike and Bellevue Road — the community’s original hub — the strong metal sign explains the origin of “Belle Vue” as well as a map of several historical sites nearby.
“You folks may not realize it, but we are standing on hallowed ground,” said Bellevue’s Bob Allen, a longtime Metro Historical Committee member, who was instrumental in securing the latest marker. “This is where the community started; this hub was the hustling, bustling part of Bellevue.”
Allen explained that in 1800 the original landowner Abraham Louis DeMoss dubbed the area “Belle Vue” when he built a gristmill, sawmill, and home along the Harpeth River nearby. Several generations of the DeMoss family were represented at the ceremony.
In the mid-1800s when the Nashville-Northwestern Railroad cut a line to Kingston Springs, a train depot was built in Bellevue, effectively putting the community on the map.
In time, the area spawned a livery stable, blacksmith shop, railroad storage building, general store, post office, churches, and a school. Sadly though, only one of the original buildings that made up the historic center of Bellevue remains, Allen said: the Masonic Lodge #716 which was the two-story railroad building.
Curiously, it was opening the first U.S. Post Office that changed the community’s name to Bellview, but in later years was again identified as Bellevue (sans the extra space).
The historical marker was funded through The Marker Project, which allows the Metro Historical Commission to place a new marker in each council district by 2020. The estimated cost of the markers is $2,000.
“These markers are some of the best Metro dollars spent,” said Charlie Tygard, a former councilman and current member of the Bellevue Exchange Club, who helped host the event along the Bellevue Harpeth Chamber of Commerce, and the Bellevue History and Genealogy Group.
Tygard singled out Allen for his dedication to keeping Bellevue’s history alive, while acknowledging that the great growth of Bellevue and the influx of new residents will make it difficult to see and appreciate it without something as simple, yet valuable, as an historic marker.
“Bob is a special person. The time and energy he brings to preserving the history of our community is unbelievable,” Tygard said. “History needs to be passed on. Without this type of work, we risk losing that history and sense of community.”
Metro’s marker program began in 1968, paying tribute to the people, places and events important to Davidson County, explained Caroline Eller, a staff member with the historical commission.
There are more than 200 markers installed now; 73 more are being added through 2020 — with at least one marker in each council district, she said.
Chamber CEO Amy Napoli told the crowd that everybody in Bellevue “shares a common value — community.” However, “few of us know the stories of our founders, and these types of efforts give us that perspective,” she added.
Family members of several founding families, some going back seven generations, were on hand Wednesday afternoon. Some were excited, a few got emotional, when looking at the family landmarks etched on the marker.
Bellevue’s more rural council district 35 likely will get a marker before the end of 2020. According to Allen, discussions have begun about the Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre site on Highway 100 but that is not a definitive option currently.