77. Detours and dead-ends still greet you in New Nashville: A walk down Nashville’s Delaware Ave.




If you find yourself on the west side Nashville on either Interstate 40 or Charlotte Avenue, whether or not you are in “North” or “West” Nashville will depend on which side of Charlotte or I-40 you find yourself on.

If you are north of Charlotte in most cases you are in “North” Nashville, and if you on the south side you will be told you are in “West” Nashville. Though it isn’t always this clear. Because if you happen to be on the north side of both Charlotte and I-40 but west of the railroad tracks between 41st and 43rd Avenues you will be in “West” Nashville, what is called “The Nations.” And if you find yourself north of Charlotte but between 38th and 33rd Avenues you will be told you are in “West” Nashville.

People often talk about Interstate 40 and they speak of the highway in terms of history and bad ideas–specifically the three mile section of I-40 between I-65 and 46th Ave that was completed in 1971. Separating truth and fact from fiction and anger can be difficult. Some things are true about that construction. It is true the construction of the Interstate created a physical barrier between two historically different neighborhoods of Nashville–the working class “North” Nashville and the affluent “West.” But why this construction happened the way it did has never been fully understood. Motives are a difficult thing to determine by looking at maps and old planning commission minutes.

We may not know why this happened but a walk along a particular street in this part of Nashville today definitely reveals something about “what” happened. A walk along Nashville’s Delaware Ave is a walk of through detours and dead ends.

At the far west end of Delaware Ave the road terminates at Richland Creek, ending at Morrow Road. This section of Delaware Ave runs parallel to Interstate 40, almost underneath the highway. On the south side of the street is a fence keeping you from going beneath the elevated highway. On the north side of the street are a few scattered houses, a two-story apartment complex, and two old metro school campuses–operational but appearing from a distance to be almost empty.

Despite its austere appearance, this entire stretch of road runs along the bottom of the explosive area of gentrification called The Nations.

This western most section of Delaware Ave running at the bottom of The Nations neighborhood dead-ends at a fence guarding a construction company storage lot next to north/south railroad tracks.

Delaware connects here to 42nd Ave N which takes you on a detour to cross the railroad tracks on Indiana Ave and then to 41st Ave N to bring you back to Delaware Ave in the heart of the derelict Preston Taylor neighborhood.

This is the neighborhood the police call “The Jungle” because of its high crime. It is also home to one of Nashville’s largest low-income housing projects–Preston Taylor Projects.

This section of Delaware Ave runs for only two blocks and features low-incoming apartments, a half-way house complex for prisoners transitioning back to freedom and dead-ends at another gated industrial yard on 39th Ave N next to Interstate 40.

This is were things become complicated. To continue on Delaware Ave you must backtrack to 40th Ave N and cross under the highway then travel eastbound on Charlotte Ave parallel to the interstate all the way to 36th Ave N where you then turn left and drive up a treacherously steep street into a hilly neighborhood of entirely new construction–almost all consisting of the notorious “skinny” houses. You climb the hill then descend part way to pick up Delaware Ave again.

Here Delaware begins (or ends) at a mound of dirt and debris next to a guard rail close enough to Interstate 40 to feel the rumble of traffic.

This is the shortest section of Delaware Ave. Here the street climbs a hill parallel to the highway and again dead-ends at a guard rail and fence. Curiously a now overgrown road continues beyond this fence leading to the backside of a pair of abandoned houses. The area is an unofficial garbage dump.

To continue on to the final sections (or the beginning sections) of Delaware Ave you must again retreat, in this case going back a block to 35th Ave N, and return to Charlotte. You continue east on Charlotte, crossing under Interstate 440, until you reach 31st Ave N, turning left.

31st Ave N dead-ends at a field next the massive 40/440 interchange, but a few hundred feet before the dead-end you turn right onto Delaware Ave. In this one block section between 31st and 28th (there is no 30th or 29th here) there is a mixture of small, old houses and subsidized housing next to a gleaming set of condominium apartments.

A left on 28th Ave N and then a quick right puts you on this last section of Delaware Ave that terminates (or begins) at a field next to railroad tracks and 27th Ave N with a view of nearby downtown Nashville.

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