Today is a ‘pause day’, not a lot of travel – instead a couple of local sights we took in… The first comes from a small hike, really more of a walk, exploring the Narrows of the Harpeth. On the Harpeth river that is. An absolutely fascinating place geographically and historically.
The Harpeth river is quite a meanderer as it flows past Nashville. Just a bit north of US Route 70 it forms a five mile long ox-bow separated by the very narrow limestone formation that was the destination of our hike. At this point the two channels are less than two hundred yards apart providing a unique vantage.
Here, in 1818, the enterprising Montgomery Bell began to cut a tunnel through the 100 yards of limestone separating the two river channels. The tunnel is the first known example of a full-scale water diversion tunnel, and is also the first full-scale tunnel of any type in the United States.
Mr. Bell rightly understood the value of the water power available using this tunnel which yielded 16 feet of head with favorable conditions that would allow building a dam raising the river level an additional 14 feet, providing a potential of 30 feet of head. He speculated that the United States government would be willing to purchase the improved property for powering an armory.
The Federal Government was not, so Mr. Bell constructed a forge here to process pig iron from regional blast furnaces into wrought iron. He named it Patterson Forge (also spelled Pattison) reflecting the maiden name of Mr. Bell’s mother, Mary Montgomery Patterson Bell.
The forge was in operation until interrupted by the Civil War in 1852. Following the war it was not cost effective to resume production because of depressed iron prices in Tennessee. The site remained unused until the 1880s when a gristmill was established on the site. Today the site is part of the Harpeth River state park.
Next stop: Loveless Cafe! Fun name, is there a story? Well, glad you asked ;-). Turns out that Mr. Bell was not the only enterprising Tennessean… In 1951 Lon and Annie Loveless began serving fried chicken and biscuits to travelers on Highway 100. Before long business was so brisk they converted their home into a cafe and added a 14 room motel for overnight guests.
Seventy plus years latter the Loveless Cafe remains true to it’s roots serving half a million people a year delicious food, and at times, baking 10,000 biscuits a day! I do have to say though, while very, very good… they were just not at the same level as Annie Rubie’s yesterday. JS.
As always, route details on the interactive map below. Get out there are have an adventure :-). Enjoy!