Blues Documentarian’s Historic Home Restored in Nashville

Midwest
Thursday, July 12, 2012
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BEFORE / AFTER

JOHN WESLEY WORK HOUSE AT FISK UNIVERSITY BEFORE RESTORATION (LEFT) AND AFTER. (COURTESY MOODY•NOLAN)

A Victorian house once home to Nashvillian composer and ethnomusicologist John W. Work III received a full restoration from Columbus, Ohio-based Moody•Nolan, the nation’s largest African-American owned and operated architecture firm, in 2011.

That project recently won three awards: a Citation of Excellence from the Associated General Contractors, a Certificate of Merit from the State Historical Commission and an Honor Award from the Metro Nashville Historical Commission.

John Work III moved into the house on Fisk University campus in 1937. A music teacher at Fisk and one of the first academic scholars of rural African American folk music, Work made some of the earliest known field recordings of black Nashvillians. His sons John and Frederick Work grew up in the house. Frederick went on, along with Edward Melvin Porter, to make Vanderbilt the first racially integrated private law school in the South.

Their restoration included some necessary structural work like installing a new roof and patching up crumbling stone and brick masonry in the foundation and chimneys. But the architects aimed to tread lightly—they overhauled the electrical system without disturbing the original design and took care to analyze exterior paint colors with a microscope.

Moody•Nolan had previously restored Cravath Hall, another building on campus, in 2003. Murals by Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas adorn many of Cravath’s walls and ceilings.

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