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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cal Turner's Christmas Barn

Christmas-time has brought a new tradition to those who travel down Franklin Road (U.S. 31) in Brentwood, TN (which is a suburb of Nashville).   As a traveler, the stream of fancy businesses turns into newer mansions, and then appearing is a wide-open space that looks like it has been preserved in time.  From behind a small hill and a green fence until 2010 used to emerge an old barn with a mural of the star of Bethlehem giving light to several barnyard animals.  In 2011, a storm toppled the old barn, but for 2012 a new pavilion has been built at the same spot to continue to display the mural for at least another year.

Cal Turner's Christmas Barn

Often I have written on this blog about barns with advertisements painted on the them.  This one is different.  Nothing is being advertised, but instead, the season is celebrated.  The barn isn't painted, but instead, a 400-pound mural is carefully unwrapped and placed on this barn every December.  After Christmas has passed,  The mural is carefully taken down and put into storage not to be seen for another 11 months.

The farm now belongs to the Turner family.  Cal Turner, Sr. was the founder of the Dollar General.  Cal Jr. succeeded Sr. as president of the company but also has taken over the farm.  Brentwood, like many cities has seen much growth over the decades, and many of the rural areas around the farm aren't rural anymore.  Many real estate developers are anxiously waiting for the day this prime land can be turned into more mansions, or maybe even more retail stores.  But for now, it's remains a farm and the 60 year old barn serves as a reminder as what life was like in the area decades ago.

Closeup of Christmas Mural

The 48' x 38' over-sized Christmas card was first seen in 1996.  Turner Jr. commissioned local art-teacher Chris Tibbot to paint the mural.   However, the art is not going to last forever.  The painting is fragile since it is exposed to the elements.  in years past, they had decided that they couldn't put it up anymore.  So far, though, they think it can make it one more winter.  This might be the last year it is shown or maybe next year, they'll bring it out for the last time again.  The barn was a concern even before the 2011 storm knocked it over.  It was built in the 1940's, but over the years, it had slowly deteriorated to the point where now it wasn't used for anything other than the yearly display. A fierce storm even came through in 2010 that uprooted some of the nearby trees, but the barn held on.

Cal Turner's barn

Other things of note from the barn.  On the left is a portable light which will illuminate the barn some nights during the season.  The animals in the painting are sheep and donkeys and one white Charolais cow, which used to be bred on this farm and were known as "Cal's cows."  The large radio tower which is about a mile away is the signal tower for WSM 650 AM, the legendary station which has been the "home of the Grand Old Opry."  At the time of the tower's construction in the 1930's it was called the tallest radio tower in the world.

See it on the map HERE.  If you live in the area and are thinking about seeing it for yourself, this really could be the last year it's up, and they could take it down the day after Christmas.

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