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Parks and Recreation
Parthenon at Centennial Park Sunken Gardens

Park History

A brief narrative on the origins of park names.

CEDAR HILL PARK: Originally called Old Center Park because Old Center School was located near the park, it was purchased in 1964. It was officially named Cedar Hill Park the following year because the hilly park was covered with native cedar trees.

COLEMAN PARK: Named after William Coleman. In 1935, Mrs. Coleman gave the park to the city in memory of her husband William Coleman, said to be a local community leader.

CORNELIA FORT: Cornelia Fort (1919-43), Nashville’s first woman flying instructor volunteer, Army’s WAFS, WWII, was the first woman pilot to die on war duty in American history. “I am grateful that my one talent, flying, was useful to my country.” she wrote shortly before her death. Miss Fort was lost in a crash over Texas flying a basic-trainer plane, BT 13-A, across the United States.

CLINTON B. FISK PARK: Clinton Bowen Fisk, for whom Fisk University is named, was a senior officer during Reconstruction in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. He endowed Fisk University with $30,000. In these facilities Fisk convened its first classes on January 9, 1866. The first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, but shared common experiences of slavery and poverty — and an extraordinary thirst for learning.

CRAWFORD PARK: The park was named for Cecil Rhea Crawford who gave the land to the park board in 1971 on the condition that the gift remain a secret until after his death. A native of Oklahoma, Crawford taught music in the Cane Ridge community for many years, often scheduling recitals by his students in the old schoolhouse which was being used as the Cane Ridge Community Center. After his death, the Park Board named the park, which was originally known as Cane Ridge Park, in his honor.

DOUGLAS PARK: The origin of the name is questionable. Someone with an ink pen inserted “Fred” in front of Douglass. There was no prominent Fred Douglas in East Nashville. Leading historians to think the Board may have intended to honor Frederick Douglass, the famous black leader, journalist and statesman.

DUDLEY PARK: Named after Louise and Rebecca Dudley in 1914, after the two daughters of Park Commissioner Robert M. Dudley, who died when a train hit the family car at Glidden, Iowa. When purchased in 1913, it was known as Chestnut Street Park. In 1920, a swimming pool, bathhouse, bandstand, and ball diamond were built. In the 1930’s the WPA built the second community center (which included a gymnasium) in the park system.

E.N.PEELER PARK: The 273 acres of land for Peeler Park were acquired through acquisition of the Euston N. Peeler farm in 1963 and adjoining site of the Sun Valley Swim Club in 1969. In 2009, the park more than doubled in size through the addition of the adjoining 388 acre Taylor Farm from the estate of Ernest N. and Mary Alberta Taylor. Prior to becoming a Metro park, the 257-acre Peeler tract was actively farmed with a dairy herd and row crops. The Peeler home and dairy barns were located on the uplands and the row crops were farmed in the bottomlands. The pool was filled soon after acquisition, and the swim club buildings, long vacant, will be reused in the future for nature programming and maintenance operations.

FANNIE MAE DEES PARK: In 1978, the park was named in honor of local civic leader Fannie Mae Dees for “her deep concern for the welfare and safety of children in the Eakin community.” A portrait of Dees can be seen on the loop nearest the tail of the iconic sea serpent sculpture.

HADLEY PARK: Purchase records indicate the park was the Harding property but contained the home of the Hadley family whose plantation became the site of Tennessee State University at about the time the park was purchased. Major E. C. Lewis named it Hadley Park, but did not identify the Hadley he intended to honor. The city’s black newspaper at the time assumed Lewis meant the Hadley family, John L. Hadley specifically, a white slave-owning family which had lived on the site. It’s also possible that Lewis had intended to honor Dr. W. A. Hadley, a pioneer black physician with whom Lewis had worked during the 1897 Centennial Exposition.

HARTMAN PARK: The park was named in honor of Richard W. Hartman, who for nay years worked with the youth of Bordeaux. Little else is known about Mr. Hartman. There was only one newspaper clipping from 1964 mentioning the park and/or Mr. Hartman.

MCCABE PARK: The Park Board named the park in honor of Charles McCabe, the Nashville Park Commissioner and Postmaster who died in 1939. Edwin Warner, along with C. E. Danis, laid out the first nine of the golf course which opened to golfers in 1942. When the second nine holes were constructed in 1947, several Indian graves were discovered on the course and were excavated by archaeologists from the Children’s Museum.

MCFERRIN PARK: The park was named after John Berry McFerrin, a prominent Nashvillian. McFerrin was a Methodist Church leader. He was born on July 15, 1807 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He started preaching in 1825 and became an ordained Methodist preacher in 1829. He was one of the early founders of La Grange College in Alabama, later known as the University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama.

MORGAN PARK: The Park Board purchased the property on which a beer garden stood in order to provide a park for “the working-class neighborhood” surrounding what we know as the Werthan Bag Company. At the request of Major E. C. Lewis, the Board named the park in honor of Samuel Dold Morgan, known as “The Merchant Prince of Nashville,” who had founded the nearby textile mills and had owned similar mills at Lebanon, Huntsville and other cities. Morgan had served as the president of the state commission which supervised construction of the State Capitol Building. He is said to be interred in the walls of the Capitol.

NAPIER PARK: The park was named for James Carroll Napier, the son of a Nashville blacksmith and freedman. Napier attended Wilberforce and Oberlin colleges and Howard University, becoming an attorney and banker and serving on the Nashville City Council. It is reported he had charge initially of the black achievements exhibits at the 1897 Centennial Exposition and earned a national reputation as U. S. Register of the Treasury during the administration President William H. Taft. Napier promoted playgrounds in the city to serve the black community.

OWEN BRADLEY PARK: As one of the architects of the Nashville sound, Owen Bradley was one of the most influential country music producers of the '50s and '60s. Along with his contemporary Chet Atkins, Bradley helped country music move away from its rootsy origins to a more accessible, radio-friendly format by blending pop production and songwriting techniques with country. In addition to producing, Bradley was vice president of Decca Records' Nashville Division, and in that position he was able to produce a huge variety of artists, including Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, and Webb Pierce. With his work in country-pop, honky tonk, and bluegrass, Bradley left behind a large legacy that proved vastly influential on contemporary country music. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Bradley worked with many of Decca's most famous artists, including Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. In 1974, Bradley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

WILLIAM A. PITTS: William A. Pitts Park was named in 1975 at the request of Mayor Beverly Briley. Pitts served as Director of Planning for the City-County Commission, as the county’s first Director of Public Works and as the first Metro Director of Codes. He died in 1964.

SEVIER PARK: In 1882, Dr. L.G. Noel purchased the estate at auction. Noel owned the property longer than any other individual and renamed it Idlewild for his mother’s home in Memphis. Dr. Noel was a prominent Nashville dentist and also taught dentistry classes at Vanderbilt, where he served as chair of dental pathology from 1905 until the dental school closed in 1926. After Dr. Noel’s death, Granville Sevier, son of Frank and Mary Douglass Sevier, came back to visit the house where his mother (the original owner) had grown up. In 1927, he purchased 20 1/2 acres from the Noel family and brought his mother back to the home she had christened Sunnyside. Sevier renovated the house, adding the one-story brick wings, enlarging the basement, and building the stone office. His heirs sold the property to the city of Nashville after his death in 1945. Sevier Park opened on this property in 1948. Sunnyside was occupied by the family of Parks Department Superintendent Jack Spore until 1987. Later, the building housed various community groups. A major restoration was completed in 2004, and Sunnyside is now home to the Metropolitan Historical Commission and Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission.

WATKINS PARK: Land once known as Watkins Grove was given to the city in 1870 by brick maker and contractor Samuel Watkins. It served as a site for political gatherings, school commencements and concerts. This became Nashville’s first public park in 1901. In 1906, the Centennial Club opened the city’s first playground here, setting a precedent for public recreation facilities elsewhere in the city. Watkins Park was a park for black Nashvillians from 1936 until the 1960s, when the park system was desegregated.

WEST PARK: In 1952 the Park Board, at the request of Mayor Ben West, this park was transferred to city government in exchange for Cherokee Park. The Park Board named the park in honor of the Mayor.