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My Take

Square remains vital

Mark McGee
Posted 1/7/23

As part of my exciting New Year’s Eve, I drove my mother around the square to look at the lights at night.

If you didn’t make a similar trip during this past holiday season you missed an …

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My Take

Square remains vital

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As part of my exciting New Year’s Eve, I drove my mother around the square to look at the lights at night.

If you didn’t make a similar trip during this past holiday season you missed an impressive sight. Most store fronts were brightly decorated reminding me of a small-town version of the Christmas windows at Macy’s in New York City.

Uncle Nearest Distillery was covered in lights rivaling the Gaylord Opryland Hotel grounds for holiday wattage. It is easily the biggest holiday display in the history of Bedford County.

But there was a peacefulness about the decorations on the square.

The white lights decorating the courthouse provided a festive look for the historic building. All of the renovation around the courthouse really opens up the area.

Architecturally the Shelbyville square design is studied in textbooks. While many small-town squares are dying a slow death our square is filled with various shops offering a variety of goods.

Pope’s Café , which has long been a tourist attraction, is under new ownership. The Coffee Break continues to offer a quality food experience. And just off the square on Depot Street the Bocelli Pizza and Pasta Shoppe long ago established itself as a place for Italian cuisine.

Soon to be added to these choices is a new farm-to-table restaurant Glass Hollow Table & Tavern which will fill part of the old Knox Pitts Hardware building along with shops and a bed and breakfast.

Dating back to my time as the Times-Gazette editor in the late 1990s I have always been involved in historic preservation through my support of Tennessee’s Backroads Heritage. I serve as a board member and like all of our members we are happiest when old buildings are preserved.

Jon English has been active in revitalizing buildings on the square and on Depot Street. We need more people like him who prefer to restore older structures while also finding ways to modify them.

Having spent the majority of my working life in Nashville where old buildings are removed without a thought for history, such an approach by investors like English Is encouraging.

We take for granted what we see every day. But as my mother pointed out as we made our second trip around the square what a great situation we have in terms of attracting people to spend a half day or so exploring the square.

The holiday lights might not be on anymore but take the time to drive around the square one night. Do it when there is no traffic, so you have time to savor what you are seeing. I guarantee it will give you a greater appreciation of your hometown.

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