Cultural & Historical Places

The stories of how places in Tennessee came to be have created historical sites and local culture.  People enjoy visiting these places.  The cultural and historic heritage defines a place as it captures the local design, festivities and themes.  These characteristics are often displayed in hospitality, signage, public art and even music.  Civic buildings such as libraries, schools, auditoriums and government offices are public places that can benefit people through healthy design and their communities through shared use.  Cultural and historical sites give a place a sense of identity while creating opportunities for community pride and tourism.

photo of Tennessee State Capitol

How are cultural and historical sites connected to health?

To experience the history and culture of a place, it often involves a little exploration.  Tourism is a great opportunity to increase physical activity.  Many activities at cultural and historical sites involve a lot of walking for guests.  Visiting museums, parks, fairs, battlefields, buildings and neighborhoods often adds up to more than 30 minutes of walking exercise.  Personal growth and learning also improves mental health.

Why preserve cultural and historical sites?

The heritage of a place is what sets it apart from all other places.  Preserving places remembers the past while preparing for the future.  Preserving places saves the culture of the persons who came before.  Preserving cultural and historical sites has benefits realized over time and not immediate returns.  Property developers tend to operate on short term investment gains.  Community development invests in longer term successes.  Keeping old stuff around reflects a time long ago and remind us people and things were different in the past.  Historic preservation is a sign of respect.  Culture is a matter of pride.  Unique historical and cultural sites give places a sense of identity.  Cultural and historical sites and buildings are interesting places that promote tourism.

How can my community preserve and restore sites?

People can do many things to help preserve or restore sites with cultural or historical significance in their communities.  A great place to start is to make a list of the names and addresses of important sites for your area.  Then some research can go into discovering who owns or operates those sites and perhaps even learn their future intention for the sites.  It is important to learn if your community or county has historic or preservation zoning.  While zoning is a useful tool, many rural communities still have open zoning.  Use signage to create a sense of place that connects your cultural or historical community assets.  Sometimes a site has been neglected or the current ownership simply cannot afford repairs.  This may be an opportunity to have a fund raiser to raise money to make repairs to change the ownership to a preservation group who will ensure the site remains available to the community for years to come.  Many communities have a historical society that can help find both facts and resources.     

Why repurpose older buildings?

Repurposing older buildings has numerous benefits.  Old buildings often have more unique architectural elements than modern buildings.  As some would say, “They don’t make them like they used to.”  Older buildings reflect a time period when transportation moved people not cars.  Keeping the old design often creates a place that may have some car limitations but is better for people.  Buildings with architectural significance attract tourists.  Reusing old buildings is better for the environment as less construction and demolition waste ends up in a landfill and fewer materials are manufactured, transported and used. Reusing old buildings often saves time and money, too. 

What about the State Capitol?

Our Tennessee State Capitol is a National Historic Landmark.  The cornerstone of the State Capitol was laid in 1845 and the building was completed in 1859.  It was modeled after a Greek Ionic temple.  It is still in use today by the Governor, Senate and House of Representatives.  There are several monuments around the Capitol grounds.  President James K. Polk is buried onsite.  There are statues of Presidents Andrew Johnson and President Andrew Jackson.  Visitors will get their exercise walking the many staircases going up Capitol Hill.  Refer to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website for more information about visiting the Tennessee State Capitol.

How do cultural and historical sites support local economies?

Cultural and historical sites have two big things going for them.  One is a place of interest to tourists.  The other is an “x factor” or a place of special interest to local people.  As people stay in a place, they spend money.  Cultural and historical sites support jobs like historians, civil engineers, tour guides, hotel staff, transport drivers and restaurant servers.  Public Health benefits from preserving the physical infrastructure of historical and cultural sites.  Keep in mind when planning and designing new infrastructure, if not preserved lost historical and cultural sites cannot likely be recovered.  Cultural and historical sites have also social advantages as a matter of pride for their local community.

Government partners


Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
State Parks

Additional resources

Knox Heritage
Preserve.  Restore.  Transform.

Tennessee Historical Society

West Tennessee Historical Society

East Tennessee Historical Society