In a society where billboards blanketed the landscape long before the creation of the interstate highway system, it seems counterintuitive to suggest that signage could be a positive, attractive addition to a city or county.
Signs around the Courthouse chronicle the encampment of Union soldiers on the lawn. (Photo by T. Swann)
The interpretive signs added to specific points in downtown Murfreesboro in the last few weeks are the exceptions that prove the rule.
These are not the blue signs that tell you where to go.
They’re the flat, upwardly tilted signs that tell you why you are where you are and how your ancestors got you there.
These signs were placed on the Courthouse lawn, at Cannonsburgh Village, at the Civic Plaza and at the Center for the Arts.
They’re consistent with each other in appearance, but each one tells a little tale about some aspect of Murfreesboro history.
“The Courthouse was a good place to put our signs because it is one of only six courthouses in the state that predates the Civil War,” said Mona Herring, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Signs around the Courthouse chronicle the encampment of Union soldiers on the lawn.
The sign facing Maple Street describes the Battle of Murfreesboro, complete with a map outlining Nathan Bedford Forrest’s routes of attack.
These signs have been a long time in coming.
A release from the Chamber of Commerce said the process started in June 1997, but the federal regulations apparently were a bit draconian.
In December 2003, a pilot program finally got off the ground—or, more accurately, put signs on the ground.
Dr. Jim Huhta of MTSU was instrumental in providing accurate information for the project, but academics are not the only locals who care about history.
To me, the citizens of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County have always seemed very conscious of their history.
The average citizen seems more than willing to make water cooler talk about some sort of history, whether it pertains to the Civil War, World War II or elected officials from the latter decades of the 20th century.
Speaking of which, Bart Gordon was looking at the Courthouse signs at the same time I was there.
“I was able to get some special transportation funds that sort of laid the foundation for this,” Gordon said.
The mention of the 1965 Courthouse expansion jogged Gordon’s childhood memory of the construction project.
“Hopefully, people will like these and then, you know, they’ll want to do more later,” said the former representative.
He noted there are more places around town where historical signs would be appropriate, and civic-minded organizations might want to help raise funds to pay for them.
It would be nice if local groups would take the hint, perhaps even pooling their resources to make it happen in this recessionary era.
With Rutherford County’s rapid growth, newcomers are pouring into Murfreesboro, creating new history but increasing the chances that the old history will fade as rapidly as a discolored map.
Let’s document it all and preserve it all.