Our city in ruins: Silverdene 

Probably the most imminently endangered historic property in Nashville is Silverdene (931 Main St. in East Nashville), a white frame neo-classical home that dates from the 1860s. It is half-burned, boarded up, its porch shelters the homeless, and its once sprawling 600-acre grounds are now reduced to a weed-choked lot crammed in among the auto body shops, liquor stores and little brick houses.

Lawrence Finn, an Irishman, retired to then rural Edgefield in the mid-19th century and built the stately columned mansion in imitation of Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. Finn lived at Silverdene until his death in 1881. By 1908 his son-in-law had subdivided the estate into dozens of lots in East Nashville's first wave of suburbanization, before the fire of 1916. From 1926 until 1967, according to Historic Nashville, Silverdene was a tourist inn and later sank even lower and became the home of Main Street Salvage.

When the house became vacant a few years ago, the homeless moved in and it was seriously damaged by fire, probably started by vagrants trying to keep warm. Dan Brown calls it "demolition by neglect."

Yet according to David Price, even in its current state of dilapidation Silverdene could be restored and renovated for housing, offices or other commercial purposes. "I'm one who thinks if a building is standing, it could be preserved," Price says.

Preservationists are trying to work with the owner to buy time for the salvation of this significant Nashville landmark. Otherwise it will go the way of other East Nashville mansions such as Lockeland House, razed by the city to build Lockeland School, or Edgewood near today's 12th Street, which was torn down in 1962 to build an 18-unit apartment house. Saddest of all was Evergreen Place on Gallatin Road and Briley Parkway, which was illegally torn down overnight in a notorious 2005 "midnight demolition" by then owner Robert N. Moore Jr., even as preservationists worked to save it.

Silverdene is "right on the bubble," Pat McIntyre tells the Scene. However, he too insists it could be saved and returned to useful life as an office building or other commercial purpose because of the "structural integrity in these old houses."

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