Aug
11

The History And Restoration Plans of Woodard Hall

Woodhard Hall Springfield Tennessee

The square in Springfield, Tennessee is the place to be these days. With new retail shops opening monthly, new restaurants popping up left and right and events bringing people in from Tennessee and beyond, the old buildings surrounding the Robertson County courthouse are playing a huge part in our town’s revitalization.

We’re lucky to be a part of it with our latest restoration project – Woodard Hall.

Woodard Hall sits on one of the most iconic corners of the square. Nestled at 5th Avenue and North Main Street it welcomes drivers into Springfield’s historic district from Memorial Boulevard.

The building has long been a quiet one that housed a variety of organizations throughout the years, including several prominent non-profits. But when the Woodard family broke ground in 1899, it was built to be anything but non-descript.

Woodard Hall is actually the second Robertson County structure to have that name. It was originally given to a mansion on Owens Chapel Road. Built in 1792 and then significantly remodeled in 1854 by Colonel Wilie Woodard, the home sits on an impressive 165 acres. What’s most interesting is that it’s the oldest occupied home in our county. Having been passed down through nearly seven generations of Woodards it is now owned by descendants Joe and Kay Gastin.

Robertson County native John Woodard built the building. He is best known for two things: successfully running for three terms of the state legislature and making great whiskey.

“In nothing is Robertson County more distinguished than in the making of whiskey,” Goodspeed Publishing wrote in their 1886 account of Tennessee counties, and the Woodards knew how to do it well.

Much of Robertson County was settled by frontiersmen of Scots and Scotch-Irish decent, and with them came a great deal of knowledge for distilling and a taste for good whiskey. Aside from the Scots influence, the easy access to corn and our untainted springwater helped the cause.

Many historians, including local historian Bill Jones, attribute Robertson County’s proficiency at distilling to the Woodard family. Thomas Woodard, John’s grandfather, andfellow settler Arthur Pitt started the famous Springfield distillery, The Pitt Brothers.

John dabbled in a variety of businesses and just like his ancestors, found great success in the distilling. He followed in his family’s footsteps at an early age, purchasing equipment from another distillery and putting it on The Beeches property. He called it Silver Springs Distillery and his cousin, Moses Daniel Woodard, helped him run it.

From there, John became a state senator, a Robertson County judge, the first president of the Springfield National Bank, owner of the Springfield Hotel and eventually the builder of the Woodard Building – now known as “Woodard Hall” that we are working on today.

The Woodard Blacksmith Shop that once operated out of the basement of the building. Credit: Bill Jones

Woodard Hall has been many things to many generations over the years. It was a grocery store and later Woodard Hardware. It also housed the telephone operators switchboard upstairs in the early 1900’s before being moved above OurSerenityShop’s current location on the square.

There was even a blacksmith’s shop in the basement and an alley out back that housed a small, but popular, bar. More recently it housed Springfield Gas department which also sold gas appliances from the main floor.

Today, the building is undergoing a significant transformation. So far, we’ve put on a new roof  and are beginning some exciting cosmetic changes to make it a warm and welcoming place for people to visit and conduct business – And it’s working!

Recently, we had a West Nashville law firm move their offices into the building. We’re hoping to recruit more tenants as we continue to invest in Woodard Hall, and our town.

Stay tuned for progress updates on the building as we continue our work.

One Comment

  • martha nelson
    4 months ago

    Love the history and your work, Jim. But please no more “professional” firms, however. We need true business commerce on the square, I believe. I watched Franklin grow (lived downtown in historic district for 13 years) and the professional offices did not promote truly robust economic vitality. Let’s get some great shops in there! As always, thanks for all you are doing to make Springfield the best place to live and work.

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