What was Here?

Before “Music City”, Nashville was a just another reconstructing city of the South. With the rise of industry and the demise of plantation farming, the predominant families of Nashville began to divide their land amongst their heirs. As these new homes began to emerge, new roads began to be constructed and thus, the neighborhoods of Nashville began to form.

The rise of new industry and growth along the Cumberland brought about a change in Tennessee’s economic climate. The middle-class began to form and grow, roads were improved, and other new needs began to arise.

One need was for horse breeders to begin breeding more standardbred trotters as opposed to the popular thoroughbred racer for which Tennessee was already known. Citizens were looking for horses that would perform on the racetrack as well as on the improved roadways. Judge John Overton’s Travelers Rest Plantation was one of the first to have Arabian horses brought to Nashville in the early 19th century. This began his family’s history with breeding fine horses.

In adapting to the new changes, Overton’s grandsons (May Overton, Jesse M. Overton, and Robert L. Overton), in partnership with their brother-in-law John Thompson and Van Leer Kirkmann, used their inherited land to develop their own horse operation. Settled on the west side of Franklin Pike, they constructed a twenty-four stall stable known as the Hermitage Stud. In 1886, they purchased a champion trotter and sire horse, Wedgewood, from John S. Clark of New Brunswick, New Jersey, for $25,000, to help begin the breeding program. Wedgewood would become the most famous horse at the Stud. With a short racing career from 1879 to 1881, he would earn the name “The Iron Horse” for being known to run as many as six heats in a single event.

The group of owners at the Stud were also promoters of the Cumberland Fair and Racing Association Park, known today as the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. As they saw a rise in attendance and participation at the Park, the promoters decided a road was to be built to connect it and Franklin Pike. This would also allow easier access from the Stud to the Park and back. In the deciding meetings for the road, it was brought about by Kirkmann that the road be named after their prized horse, Wedgewood. Over the years the Park has become the Fairgrounds and the road has been expanded but the name still remains, and as with many roads around town, keeps our rich history alive.

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