Old Graves In Way Of Nashville Zoo Expansion

Old Graves In Way Of Nashville Zoo Expansion

CREATED Jan 28, 2014

by Emily Luxen           

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -  The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is preparing to expand but a piece of history is in the way.

Several unmarked grave sites are now located in the area where the entrance to the zoo will be expanded. Zoo officials said no one knows who these graves belong to, or how old they are, and with no known relatives in the area, those questions may never be answered.

"There are about five to 15 grave sites," said Rick Schwartz, Zoo President. "We know this is part of the farm and history of the farm."

With the help of historians, archeologists and lawyers, the zoo is beginning the careful process of moving the graves to the Croft House at the Grassmere Historic Farm, which is on zoo property.

"Since it is part of the heritage of this facility and historic farm, we are going to relocate these to the Croft Farm and really make it an educational experience up there," said Schwartz. "I think it is the best case scenario that we could possibly expect."

The Croft House was built in 1810 and also plays an important role in the area's history. The graves will be moved to an area that is not far from the cemetery where people who lived in the Croft house are buried. Zoo officials said the hope is this move will preserve history while helping them build for the future.

Construction on the new entrance to the zoo will begin in June.  Plans for the $6.8-million renovation will include more ticket lanes, office space and restrooms.  The entire process is should be complete by the end of 2015.  Zoo officials said the upgrade is needed to help accommodate a constantly increasing number of visitors.

"We've really outgrown the facility," said Schwartz. "We need to make the infrastructure changes and get people through the doors faster as we continue to grow."

Once the legal process is complete, the zoo will begin moving the graves in about a month. Zoo officials have asked a Davidson County Chancery Court judge for permission to move the graves. 

Tennessee state law requires anyone planning to dig up graves to notify interested parties.  Since there are no known relatives in the area, the zoo must publish a legal notice of the possible relocation of the graves for four consecutive weeks.  If no one objects, the court is expected to approve the removal of the graves.

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