I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
January 20, 2022
When I moved to Nashville in 2000, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. After landing my dream job as a TV reporter, I’d managed to find a cheap and charming duplex apartment in the heart of Green Hills, close to bars and restaurants and shopping. I loved my new neighborhood, filled with homes whose exteriors reflected the personalities of the people who’d built them decades earlier. The houses in my neighborhood drew their inspiration from a wide range of architectural styles. They had mansard roofs and mullioned windows, crumbling stone chimneys and gingerbread lattices. Every house told a different story and as I drove past them each day on my way to work, I loved imagining all the different kinds of people who lived in them. The ivy-covered cottage in need of repairs belonged in my mind to a wealthy old cat lady who wore a vintage mink stole even in the summertime. The rambling ranch house with the large front yard was home to a rough and tumble family of sports enthusiasts. The box-shaped house with the interesting sculpture in the driveway had to be that of a modern art lover. Looking at these homes, I dreamed about my own future and how it would play out, and wondered what kind of story my house would tell people some day.
Time passed and I married and moved across town to Bellevue. It wasn’t as exciting as Green Hills, but it was a perfect spot to raise kids, which was exactly what I was planning on doing. I could always move back to Green Hills one day, I reasoned, or to one of the similar neighborhoods surrounding it. All of them had quiet streets lined with tidy, older homes of varying shapes and sizes. I knew I’d never stop loving them.
But then Nashville started changing.
For reasons I still haven’t quite worked out, everyone in America decided they wanted to live here and once that happened, it took a shockingly small amount of time for the Nashville I’d known and loved for decades to become unrecognizable. The silhouettes of cranes became the dominant feature of our downtown skyscape. Iconic older buildings in historic neighborhoods were razed and replaced with glassy high-rise structures that shut out the sun, financed by big investors from other parts of the country and the world. Apartments were constructed seemingly overnight on every square foot of available property. No thought was given to the character and history of our neighborhoods as big money rolled in and new development took over, and within the space of just a few years, streets became unrecognizable and every charming nook and cranny of Nashville began to look exactly the same.
Where could I go to find the Nashville I had known? The Nashville whose heavy hitters operated out of historic homes, whose neighborhoods each had their own distinctive architecture and style, whose heritage and history were honored by the people who chose to live there? Surely, those quiet streets of beautiful older homes would remain untouched and unchanged — They were, I believed, just too charming and masterfully built to tear down. I began making a point to leave the main roads so that I could drive through the neighborhoods where my love affair with Nashville had begun.
And I discovered that my favorite residential roads were also now unrecognizable. Many of the unique older homes I had loved had disappeared.
All of them had been replaced by white houses.
Enormous, anonymous white houses.
Row upon row upon row of white houses, sparkling like an expensive set of veneers in a Beverly Hills dental office.
Wealthy newcomers are paying small fortunes for the homes that gave Nashville neighborhoods their unique character and charm and tearing them down to build monstrous, oversized white houses in their places.
Alone and on a larger piece of property, one of these white houses might be attractive, but side by side by side by side all the way down a street, they are ugly and antiseptic and completely devoid of character.
Their identical facades tell me only of owners with a whole lot of money to burn and little imagination or sense. White houses are multiplying like cockroaches in West Nashville right now, obliterating entire communities, crowding out people who’ve lived there for decades and replacing them with far wealthier residents who clearly have no knowledge of or interest in their new neighborhood’s unique history.
Those who say no to a developer’s offer are likely to soon find their older home sandwiched between two stark white houses, both built as large and as close to property lines as zoning allows.
I no longer dream of living in these neighborhoods when I drive through them. Instead, I find myself thinking about moving to one of the vibrant cities and towns I’ve visited over the last few years that still look today like Nashville looked ten years ago- cities where I can still find a quirky little house in a lovely neighborhood for less, far less, than a million dollars. That’s no longer possible here.
I think many of us were excited several years ago when Nashville was declared the new ‘It’ city. I think most of us feel a lot different now. Those of us who are still here, anyway.
Nashville isn’t ours anymore. It’s become a playground for the wealthy, whose expensive white houses stretch as far as the eye can see.