The City of Franklin, Tennessee (population 42,000), was founded October 26, 1799. A local member of the Continental Congress, Dr. Hugh Williamson, named the city after his close friend, Benjamin Franklin, while the surrounding Williamson County was named after the doctor.
For most of its first 180 years, Franklin was a tranquil, small county seat surrounded by agriculture. In the years prior to the Civil War, Williamson County was one of the wealthiest counties in Tennessee, and Franklin was the center of the plantation economy. Two Presidents visited Franklin and three Secretaries of War were from the immediate area.
The Civil War, however, devastated the economy. Union troops occupied the area for nearly three years. The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, and was one of the war's bloodiest battles, costing more than 8,000 casualties and turning every home and building in town into a hospital. It took 120 years for the county's economy to reach pre-war levels.
Franklin is a unique blend of history and progress: small-town charm and big-city sophistication. There are fascinating Civil War sites and museums, magnificent antebellum and Victorian homes, and a thriving downtown. The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County began in 1968 in response to suburban development pressures stemming from Franklin's close proximity to Nashville. The mission established by this group was to "conserve the best of the past and to plan for the benefit of the future."
The 15-block downtown was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, followed by three surrounding residential districts. Then attention turned to revitalizing Franklin's historic Main Street. A great deal of public and private investment and volunteer work has successfully transformed the downtown, eventually bringing Franklin national recognition and a "Great American Main Street" award.
In 1998, the Heritage Foundation merged with the Downtown Franklin Association (which had been created in 1982 to promote the continued viability of Franklin's central business district) to create a unified force for strengthening Franklin's rich past and ensuring an equally promising future.
Today, Franklin boasts not only its historic core, but also the nearby terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, many walking trails, and Civil War sites and museums from the Battle of Franklin and the Nashville campaign. Several annual festivals centered on Main Street and the historic downtown take place throughout the year, including the spring Main Street Festival, the fall Pumpkinfest, and the winter Dickens Christmas observance.
An education campaign on the importance of historic preservation to the community spawned the Heritage Classroom, a program that now brings local history programs to more than 10,000 school children annually.
Franklin is a Certified Local Government and a National Main Street Community.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2004.