Tennessee State Library and Archives

As a fan of Nashville history, I think one of my favorite things is the way little hints of that history are just laying all over the place, waiting for you to see them. For instance, you may have noticed that some of our roads are “pikes.” These are old turnpikes — basically roads that rich people invested in keeping up and open, and you used to have to pay to use them. The pikes are named for where they go — Gallatin Pike goes to Gallatin, Lebanon Pike goes to Lebanon, etc. This is why when you take these pikes to their namesake places, often when you turn around to come home, you are on the Nashville Pike. That’s where the road goes.

In a couple of cases, our pikes are just named for the families who lived out at the end of them — Harding Pike takes you to the old Harding farm (i.e., Belle Meade), and Charlotte Pike takes you right to Charlotte Robertson’s old front door. (Yes, I see you folks who are about to argue that Charlotte Pike takes you to Charlotte, Tenn., or used to take you to Charlotte, Tenn., but this is just not true. Fascinating that we all accept it as true, but it is not true. Look at any old map. The farthest west Charlotte used to go was Newsom’s Station, and even now it goes nowhere near Charlotte, the town.) Brick Church Pike will still take you from Nashville to a brick church and Dickerson Pike; back before the typo took over, that took you to the Dickenson Meeting House.

This is such a steadfast rule — that pikes are named for where they take you — that at first Hillsboro Pike seems the confounding exception. Until you learn that Leiper’s Fork used to be Hillsboro. Bam! The rule holds.

Anyway, on last Saturday, my parents and I went to Jose’s Sandwich and Grill for the first time. That spot, just from physical location — just east of Hermitage, up the hill and in Wilson County — would seem like it is in Mt. Juliet. But when we put it in the GPS to make sure we could find it, we saw that it has an Old Hickory address.

For those of you unfamiliar with the eastern part of the county, imagine a lowercase "n" made by the Cumberland River. Up in the bend of the n is Old Hickory. In the middle of the n is Lakewood. The bottom opening of the n is Hermitage, and everything to the right of the n is Mt. Juliet. Except the part that is apparently also Old Hickory?

Nothing about this made sense. But it’s not just Jose’s. The Tractor Supply has an Old Hickory address. St. Stephen’s has an Old Hickory address. And this doesn’t appear to be a case like, say, the Greenbriers, where you have three or four villages with no connection to each other all with the same name because early Tennessee settlers only had so many ways of saying “Things grow here, but some of them are painful” in a way that would fit on a map. The Old Hickories all have the same ZIP code — 37138. So there are not multiple Old Hickories. There’s just one large Old Hickory, that would appear to be separated into two parts by Lakewood and Hermitage in the middle of them.

But why?

Well, I went poking around in the maps at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (unofficial motto: New Digs, Old Maps), and y’all, Old Hickory moved. In this map from 1898, Old Hickory is the area around The Hermitage. Hermitage, or Hermitage Station, is down on Central Pike. Nothing in the bend has a formal name. In 1907, the bend is still without any named areas. Old Hickory is still in the area directly around the Hermitage. Note that there’s even an Old Hickory School there. And Hermitage is still down along Central Pike south of the railroad.

In this map from the 1920s, Hermitage is still down where we’ve come to expect it to be. Old Hickory is gone as a formal name for anything. You can see the industrial area that we now think of as Old Hickory and the streets that will become Lakewood. The situation in this 1926 map is similar, except that the Old Hickory name still lingers on Old Hickory School. And by 1956, we can see a situation very similar to what we have now. Rayon City is in the very crook of the bend. Old Hickory is just south of that, with Dupontonia south of that.

But the old shape of Old Hickory didn’t ever actually leave us. It might show up on maps as a small area up in the bend, but it shows up in addresses in the sprawling manner it always has.

Also, this means that before Nashville decided to try (and fail) to encircle the city in a loop called Old Hickory Boulevard, the various Old Hickory roads in Eastern Davidson County did take you to Old Hickory. And that is also a bit of satisfying knowledge.

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