Recently, I had a chance to spend a few days in Clarksville, Tennessee and found it to be a completely captivating and enjoyable town. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the places, people and great food I encountered, and I believe you’ll want to check it out for yourself. (Just as a note for driving — if you’re in North Alabama headed up I-65, take I-840 West before you get to Franklin, TN. By doing that, you will avoid the horrible Nashville traffic altogether. A HUGE plus).
Liberty Park is a multi-use area surrounding a 10-acre fishing lake. You’ll find a playground, picnic pavilions, an event center, a 1.8-mile walking trail, sports fields and a popular restaurant, Liberty Park Grill, but notably, you will find tributes to two famous Clarksville women who excelled in sports.
Wilma Rudolph won three Olympic gold medals in track and field in the 1960 games in Rome, Italy, and was, in fact, the first woman to accomplish such a feat. The story becomes even more remarkable when you learn that she had polio as a child and was told she’d never walk again. While her father worked as a porter on railroad cars and her mother cleaned houses, Wilma’s older siblings dedicated themselves to the task of massaging her weak muscles day after day. The results astonished her doctors.
Also at Liberty Park stands the Pat Head Summitt Legacy Plaza, in honor and memory of the outstanding women’s basketball coach for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1974 until 2012. When she retired she had the most career wins in college basketball history.
HISTORIC COLLINSVILLE PIONEER SETTLEMENT
Historic Collinsville Pioneer Settlement exists solely through the 43 years of hard work, financial backing and determination of JoAnn Weakley and her husband Glenn. JoAnn, who spent most of her professional life as an accountant but started out as a teacher, and Glenn, who was a farmer, believed that children and people of all ages needed a place to understand what life was like in the 1830-1870 period of history. They began the long, arduous process of locating buildings within a small radius of miles that had been constructed during that time and were still standing. In most cases, the logs and boards were numbered, the building was dismantled and taken to the settlement site and then reconstructed as it was originally. They also looked for furniture, implements, household goods, toys and artifacts appropriate to the 1800’s, in order to make the rooms come alive for visitors. Glenn, who was an avid hunter, was able to equip the Irby-Bumpus Wildlife Center on the grounds with examples of animals of Tennessee and around the world, as well as with Native American artifacts.
The settlement opened to the public in 1997 and has since hosted thousands of visitors, particularly school children on field trips. JoAnn and Glenn live in a house that adjoins the settlement and continue to have an active hand in the day-to-day operation, even though they sold the property to Montgomery County in 2018, and it is now maintained by Visit Clarksville. Imagine spending 43 years creating a place of learning and nostalgia for so many.
Historic Collinsville is open on Saturdays and Sundays and other days by appointment for groups of 6 or more.