Historical Marker Program
In 1967, the newly-formed Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County initiated a historical marker program to commemorate significant people, places, and events in the city's past. Marker Number One, "Heaton's Station," was erected at Lock One Road in 1968. The marker program is now one of the Historical Commission's longest-running and most successful programs. By the end of 2019, 215 historical markers have been erected across the county. A map of the historical markers can be found on the Metro Open Data Portal.
The following guidelines are designed to assist individuals and organizations who wish to sponsor a historical marker through the Metropolitan Historical Commission's historical marker program. You may download a copy of the guidelines and use the attached documentation sheet to complete your application packet.
Download the Historical Marker Program Guidelines
The subject of any marker erected by the Metropolitan Historical Commission should be a person, place, structure, or event that has local importance and, wherever possible, significance in the broad pattern of Nashville and Tennessee history. The event, person, structure, or place, should have achieved historical significance fifty years or more ago. Exceptions may be made by the Metro Historical Commission if the sponsoring party can show that it is of exceptional significance.
Examples of markers that would not meet our criteria for significance:
- markers to specific land grants
- markers solely of genealogical or family interest
- markers to living persons
Markers to unprotected archaeological sites will also not be considered, not because of a lack of historical significance, but so as not to endanger the archaeological artifacts by drawing attention to them before they can be properly assessed and secured. Protected archaeological sites—such as Aaittafama’ Archaeological Park—are excellent candidates for a historical marker.
Every statement on a Metropolitan Historical Commission marker must satisfy two conditions: Is it significant? Is it accurate?
Historical significance may be subjective, but factual accuracy may be proved, and documentation of every fact is required. A permanent file on each marker is kept at the Commission office so that answers may always be provided to anyone who asks for verification of a particular marker or for additional information on the subject.
A suitable and safe location should be designated in the marker application. Generally, markers are placed along a public road or on public property. Exceptions may be made that allow a marker to be placed on private property. In all cases, the site must be adjacent to a public road or property to facilitate installation and maintenance. In the event that the proposed marker is to be located on private property, written consent of the owner must be filed with the Commission.
All Metropolitan Historical Commission markers are installed by Metro's Public Works Department.
Standard markers cost approximately $2700 and are generally funded by the applicant. Cost is primarily dependent upon length of text and size of characters. Contact the MHC for more specific prices on historical markers.
The preferred length of the text is a ten-line marker with 35-36 characters per line, with a maximum of 350 characters and spaces, allowing the marker to be cast in 1.5-inch letters. The absolute maximum for text is 40-42 characters per line, with a maximum of 480 characters and spaces. Markers of this length are cast in smaller, 1-inch letters. The same text will appear on both sides of the marker.
In some cases, it may be appropriate for a longer text to "wrap" the marker, with text continuing on the reverse side of the marker, or you may want to have text on one side and an etching of a photograph on the other. These markers are more expensive than standard markers.
The Commission staff and the sponsoring party will work together to write a suitable marker text before it will be submitted to the Commission for approval. If the Commission staff feels that the submitted draft text is not compatible with the standards of the Metropolitan Historical Commission, the requesting party will be notified immediately. The staff will help with any corrections or improvements that can be made to revise the proposed text.
Once the staff and sponsoring party agree to a suitable marker text, it will be submitted to the Commission for approval. The Commission generally will consider and vote on the proposed marker at the next regularly scheduled Commission meeting. The Commission meets monthly on the third Monday of the month. After Commission approval, allow approximately twelve (12) weeks manufacturing time for the casting, shipping, and erection of the marker.
Marker proposals must be submitted for consideration to the Metropolitan Historical Commission staff four (4) to six (6) weeks before a regular meeting of the Commission.
Marker Proposals and Applications
Proposals must be submitted in the form of a letter to the Commission, and should include the following:
- The name of the person, place, structure, or event for which the marker is to be erected and a statement of significance of the same;
- A copy of the proposed marker text with documentation for the information put forth in each sentence in the text (use documentation sheet provided in marker guidelines;
- A proposed location for the marker, documented by photographs and/or maps, and a letter of permission of the property owner if located on private property;
- The source of funding for the marker, and a written statement guaranteeing payment, including an address of where the invoice should be sent.
The staff is available to work with individuals and organizations proposing historical markers to advise on the text, references, and placement of markers.
The Commission MUST have a letter from an organization guaranteeing payment for the marker before a marker can be ordered. This letter should be on the organization's letterhead with a billing address clearly stated. A copy of this letter and the billing address of the individual or organization sponsoring the marker will be sent to the manufacturer. The manufacturer will bill the sponsoring organization directly. DO NOT make checks to the Metro Historical Commission.
For further information, call the Metro Historical Commission at 615-862-7970, or email Jessica.Reeves@nashville.gov.