Respecting the Past with an Eye on the Future 6

Downtown’s Hard Bargain neighborhood preserves history 
while providing access to quality, affordable homes.

613 Mt. Hope Street. Franklin, Tennessee.

For most of us, this address holds no particular significance. But for the Hard Bargain neighborhood of Franklin, it represents an achievement so significant it’s hard to put into words. That’s because the home located at 613 Mt. Hope Street was the first affordable home built by the Hard Bargain Association (HBA) in the Hard Bargain neighborhood of historic downtown Franklin.*

If you live in Franklin, you’ve most likely heard mention of Hard Bargain, or the Hard Bargain neighborhood. This historic neighborhood adjoins Mt. Hope Cemetery on the south – sandwiched between 5th Avenue and 11th Avenue – and is bisected by Glass Street, Green Street and Johnson Alley.

The mission of the Hard Bargain Association is to impact lives and preserve the Hard Bargain neighborhood by rehabbing existing homes, building quality affordable housing, and enriching the lives of our neighbors.

The neighborhood was fortunate in that two Franklin pastors – Scott Roley and Denny Denson – met and later made it their life’s mission to not only preserve, but grow and enhance, this historic neighborhood. Roley and Denson formed the Empty Hands Fellowship – a men’s fellowship group focused on racial reconciliation – which essentially paved the way for the formation of the HBA and the neighborhood’s continued building and growth. The HBA is a grassroots, non-profit organization seeking to preserve the historic African Hard Bargain neighborhood which was founded over 130 years ago.

The neighborhood is located on 15 acres, roughly two square city blocks, in downtown Franklin. The vision of HBA is three-fold: to restore the neighborhood through rehabilitation and construction of new affordable housing, to utilize the community center for educational opportunities and job training, and to transform the neighborhood into a vibrant community to be proud of for generations to come.

The Hard Bargain community was first developed on land purchased after the Civil War by former slave Harvey McLemore from his former owner. McLemore worked hard and saved his money after he was freed – key factors in his success, being able to buy the land and eventually build a home.

“He farmed the land for about 10 years and then decided to split it up and sell plots to other freed slaves,” explains Brant Bousquet, Hard Bargain Association Executive Director. “Then people slowly built houses, or just bought the land until they could afford to build, and it became this little community of freed slaves. It was a very strong community of families and people who raised their children together. There were craftsmen, bricklayers, stonemasons, blacksmiths and farmers all living in the community.” Bousquet is quick to note that the home McLemore built still stands as the McLemore House Museum, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

As for how the Hard Bargain neighborhood got its name, there are two tales, both of them revolving around the notion that the sellers of the land were striking such a “hard bargain” with the buyers on negotiating a price for the land.

Today, 130 households comprise the Hard Bargain neighborhood. “Everybody who lives here is proud of the name and proud of the neighborhood,” said Bousquet. In 2013 the neighborhood received the Best Community Revitalization Award from Southern Living.

To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit the community center, tour the Hard Bargain neighborhood, make a donation, or receive information about programs and services, contact the HBA at 615.591.0504.

* Habitat for Humanity built affordable homes in the Hard Bargain neighborhood for many years before the HBA.

More information is available online at 
HardBargain.org.