Tennessee is full of quaint small towns that are perfect candidates for an eventful day trip. This month’s adventure took us to the town of Clarksville, where we learned all about the history of the city and got a taste of its local charm.
If you’re interested in the history surrounding Clarksville, look no further than the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center, which chronicles the town’s evolution from its founding to present day. Visitors may be surprised to discover that Clarksville boasts an impressive sporting history, with activities ranging from a track to horse showing, and many others in between, are represented here. Perhaps Clarksville’s most notable resident is that of track and field Olympian Wilma Rudolph, who became the first woman in America to win three gold medals in a singular Olympiad when she competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.
The museum is home to a respectable display in her honor, showcasing her heroic journey to becoming one of the fastest runners in the world – with her homecoming parade and banquet marking the first ever integrated events in the town. But Rudolph’s talents aren’t the only ones highlighted. Betty Corlew and her husband James are famous for their Montgomery County farm, Bowtie Acres, where they bred and trained Tennessee Walking Horses, a piece of property that eventually grew into a full professional training center. In addition, memorabilia from Clarksville’s local sports teams dating back to the 19th century are also on display, including a metal nose mask that was patented in the late 1800s before helmets came into use and served as facial protection by the high school football team.
Some may be surprised to learn that Clarksville was a fairly progressive city, with residents like Brenda Runyon and Robert Burt aiding in its modernization. Visitors can learn all about Runyon, who opened First Woman’s Bank of Tennessee that served as the first bank in the US run entirely by women, and Burt, who spear-headed the first integrated hospital in Clarksville in 1906, in addition to performing procedures that were new at the time, such as a C-section. And the architecture of the building itself is something to marvel at with its combination of stunning Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Italianate and Flemish styles and terra cotta decoration, dating back to 1898. These exhibits and many more are all inside this historic building.
A day trip in Clarksville must include a stop at Miss Lucille’s, a treasure trove of finds both old and new. Housed in a giant warehouse, Miss Lucille’s offers endless rows of all the antique goods you can imagine. Furniture, old-fashioned clothing, soaps, vintage signs and so much more can be found in this gem that offers goods for every season and caters to the taste of a variety of antique shoppers. Whether you’re decorating your home or looking for a unique piece that catches your eye, Lucille’s is bound to meet your antique needs. And if you need an extra boost of energy to tackle such an ambitious antiquing endeavor, Lucille’s also has a little coffee bar that guests are encouraged to utilize and grab a coffee while you shop. After working up an appetite, stop for lunch at the family-style café that has classic lunch dishes like salads and paninis.
But Miss Lucille’s isn’t the only spot in town that offers exceptional shopping. Just on the other side of town (and overlooking a beautiful field) is The Mill, a sweet little gift shop home to a range of locally made goods. Owned by Debbie Stinson and daughter Katy, the store features the work of more than 90 vendors and opened last July. Every item in the store is either made locally or somewhere in the US, with Stinson saying that her favorite products include custom signs, a line of jewelry made out of silverware and a large gourd that bestows a picture of the mill, made by a woman in Springfield, Tenn. It also has a Nashville connection with the presence of B & Kids Concessions, a company that makes their own flavored tea and popcorn.
Like the Customs House, The Mill is a lovely structure full of history. The building was built in 1890 and was a working mill up until the 1950s, milling items like soybeans, corn and feed. In fact, the woman who currently owns it is the great-great granddaughter of the man who built the mill. “We just fell in love with it. It has a lot of character,” Stinson said on why she and her daughter chose The Mill as the location for their business. The store is packed with gems that are created by local talent, so one is sure to find the perfect gift for anyone on their list.
This and so much more can be found in the town of Clarksville, a quick one-hour drive west of Nashville. For more information, visit the town’s official website.