MTSU Geography Class at Radnor Lake

Radnor Geography, History and Archeology Research Project

Dr. Douglas Heffington, Global Studies and Cultural Geography Program, Middle Tennessee State University

Beginning in 2002, Middle Tennessee State University began systematic research at Radnor to explore sense of place, historic settlement patterns and the evolution of the cultural landscapes of the natural area. Under the direction of Dr. Doug Heffington with the MTSU Global Studies and Human Geography program, geography, history and archaeology students have conducted over 50+ oral geographies/histories, recorded the geographic placement of numerous historic sites dating to the late 1800s to early 1900s, examined geographic locations of these sites and analyzed surface collected material culture. From this work a strong individual and collective sense of place is emerging from recorded interviews and the field work has yielded an area, though natural today, was once vibrant with 19th and 20th century farmsteads that eventually gave way to a significant industrial complex that supplied water to the steam locomotives of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and associated railyards in Nashville.

The partnership between MTSU, Radnor Lake State Natural Area and Friends of Radnor Lake has enabled the ranger staff to expand interpretation of the natural area’s history and increase protection of these culturally and historically sensitive sites. Knowledge and interpretation of the natural area’s historic components has become instrumental in land acquisition efforts related to the park.

Clearly the most tangible and visible interpretive outcome from the partnership is the Historic Valve House Trail which opened in Fall of 2011. This project is the first historical interpretive effort within the natural area’s trail system and allows park visitors a first-hand educational experience utilizing the industrial footprint left during the early years of the lake. This historic and archaeological site (40DV635) was essential to the growth and development of the L & N Railroad in central Tennessee.

Click on any image to see a larger version in a slide show.