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Germantown History Shows Housing Innovation and Resurgence

Germantown’s first residents were members of the Shawnee tribe of Native Americans, followed by the Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes. A sulfur spring and salt lick located nearby attracted wild animals and made the area a fertile hunting ground.

Though not then known as Germantown, the area was part of the first map of Nashville, drawn by land surveyor David McGavock in 1796. It was part of 960 acres granted to McGavock’s brother James for his service during the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, the McGavocks sold off parcels and started the area’s transition from agricultural to residential. Many early families were German, giving the neighborhood its name, and included skilled craftsmen, tradesmen and business owners.

Also called the Ninth Ward, Germantown was incorporated into the Nashville city limits in 1865. Less than a mile from the growing downtown area, it was home to many prominent citizens, including brewer William Gerst, distiller George Dickel, and the Seigenthalers. Germantown was ethnically, economically and architecturally diverse, with meatpacking operations, including Neuhoff, and textile production, including Werthan Bag Co., the largest employers.

As did many neighborhoods in other U.S. cities, Germantown struggled during the mid-20th century. Its renewal began in earnest in the 1970s when a small group of Nashvillians began buying property and renovating homes. Developers, investors and recognition followed. Germantown was listed as a district on The National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Germantown history is filled with housing innovation – No accident, then, that Germantown, Nashville’s first neighborhood, is home to Nashville’s first cohousing community.