NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 28 - A shot from a garage adjacent to downtown Nashville's Second Avenue captures the scope of the damage done by a Christmas Day suicide bomber. (Photo: John Partipilo)
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 28 - A wide angle shot captures the scope of the damage done by a Christmas Day suicide bomber on Second Avenue. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The immensely difficult task of possibly salvaging the historic Second Avenue buildings blown apart by the Christmas morning bombing will remain on hold until city inspectors get clearance from the FBI to enter the properties.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said Monday he hopes the buildings lining Nashville’s first historic district can be salvaged, but it’s too soon to know. At least one building collapsed and 41 were damaged in the early morning RV bombing that law enforcement say was executed by Anthony Quinn Warner.

Second Avenue was Nashville’s first district added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the focus of a decades-long preservation effort. The district is home to mid-19th century buildings that were constructed as warehouses. Formerly named Market Street, Second Avenue was one of Nashville’s most vital streets because of its close proximity to the Cumberland River.

A vertical shot of bomb-damaged buildings on Nashville's historic Second Avenue. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A vertical shot of bomb-damaged buildings on Nashville’s historic Second Avenue. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Over the last few decades, the street has become part of downtown’s entertainment district with restaurants, bars as well as offices and some residential on the street.

“I think we need to make every effort to save them,” Cooper said of the buildings. “They’re part of our architectural heritage and connect us to another era of Nashville. I’m old enough to remember when it was all hardware stores on Second Avenue, by the way, because it backed up to the river and you could off-load the inventory. So that’s of course where you would put hardware stores.

“I think it’s very important to the historic look and feel of Nashville to preserve those historic facades.”

Cooper said he anticipates engineering and codes department evaluations will begin in the next day or two. 

Codes spokesman Eben Cathey said the department is waiting on clearance before inspectors get access to the buildings. The assessments include level of damage designations, including which buildings may have to be torn down. Those assessments are the same conducted by codes inspectors following the tornado in March.

“I think it’s unknown how many of the properties will be… condemned, so to speak, or be viewed as structurally unsound,” Cooper said. “We just don’t know the extent of rebuilding that will be required.”

Cooper said he believes it will be his job as mayor to help make the property owners and business owners affected by the bombing “whole.”

“It was a very authentic and lovely historic strip there,” Cooper said. “Bringing that back and rebuilding, I think, is the big priority of the city.” 

In addition to Metro Codes, the Metro Historic Commission staff will work with structural engineers and the property owners to determine the extent of the damage, executive director Tim Walker said.

Because the FBI investigation is ongoing, city officials have not yet been granted access to the buildings affected by the bombing.

In addition to the work by codes and historic departments, Metro Public Works is continuing to address debris cleanup needed following the bombing. Spokeswoman Cortnye Stone said the department has four crews responding to emergency debris issues, working alongside Nashville fire and police departments. The public works teams are setting up barricades and sweeping streets at the perimeter of the impacted block stretching from Commerce Street to Church Street.

Water Department spokeswoman Sonia Allman said the department is not aware of any water or stormwater infrastructure damage in the area.

The 8 inch water line in First Avenue and 16 inch water line in Second Avenue were shut down on Dec. 25 and remain shut down,” Allman said. “MWS crews are participating in daily, escorted sweeps.” 

Featured photo shot by John Partipilo, Dec. 28, 2020.