Tennessee board ruling on Sumner County historic property bodes well for Bridal House – Tennessee Lookout

A bid by the Sumner County Commission to transfer ownership of a historic log cabin into private hands must first gain state approval, the Tennessee Historical Commission concluded last week.

Located on five acres of public lands, the 19th-century cabin known as the Bridal House became an unlikely flashpoint in local politics after the 2022 elections.

A majority of the county’s 24-member commission elected to office campaigned on a  “Constitutional Republican” platform, pledging to govern with biblically-based values and often at odds with longtime Republican leaders, accused of being RINOs — or Republican in Name Only.

It was Constitutional Republican commission members who weighed transferring ownership of the historic landmark to political supporters shortly after their election.

Friends of the Bridal House, the volunteer-led nonprofit that maintains the property for public use, filed suit in both Sumner County and Davidson County Chancery Courts to stop the property transfer then petitioned the Tennessee Historical Commission to intervene.

The order released last week by an administrative law judge acting on behalf of the Historical Commission found Sumner County had not yet held a final vote to transfer the property, making their intervention premature.

More crucially for those seeking to keep the landmark in public hands, the order also concluded that the Bridal House is a “memorial” as defined by the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

No public memorial “may be sold, transferred, or otherwise disposed of” by any local government, the act says. Local governments seeking to sell or transfer a memorial must seek a waiver from the state before they can do so.

“For 204 years, the Bridal House has stood as a memorial to those who founded and built Sumner County,” Jane Wright, president of Friends of the Bridal House, said in a statement.

“We are so grateful the Historic Commission recognized that Sumner County history is not for sale. All of us in Sumner County own the Bridal House.” The decision, she said, “keeps it that way.

The Bridal House dispute has proved to be a harbinger of the increasingly acrimonious political battles that have since followed.

The Sumner County Election Commission also filed suit against the County Commission, alleging their decision to eject election officials from their offices and limit the budget “threaten the integrity of the 2024 election before a single vote has been cast.” The judge in that case temporarily blocked the eviction efforts; after members of the Commission made disparaging remarks about the elections administrator, the judge put members of the Sumner County Commission on notice they could be individually held in contempt of court. In June, the Commission took the unusual step of dissolving the county’s HR department.