Ben West's Side Story: How Metro's Big Land Deal Might Get Torpedoed

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In today's City Paper, I detail how reversionary rights written into a land transfer 111 years ago might throw up a stumbling block to a proposed land deal between Metro and the state.

The deed reads, in part: “But this conveyance is made with the express reservation that the right and title of the said Carnegie Library of Nashville in and to said property shall cease and determine and the property shall at once revert to the said J. Craig McLanahan or his heirs in the event … that the said Carnegie Library of Nashville or its successors in the ownership or control of said property shall thereafter fail to maintain perpetually upon said property a free public library for the use of the people of Nashville.” That’s a bunch of legalese and antiquated language, but in effect it says if the property the McLanahans gave for the library stops being a library, the McLanahans can take the property back.

For now, attorneys for the heirs of the McLanahans are "looking into" their potential rights to the land — the front 100 feet of the old Ben West library property on Union, roughly a quarter-acre of land downtown. We'll see how this plays out — and if the Metro Council would even have the stomach to approve the transfer when, if things break in a certain way, the city would lose the Ben West property, the TPS property they'd get in exchange, and the cost for demolishing the building.

Over at PostBiz, I explain how I reported the story, a tale of deed searches and genealogy web sites.

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