History of Marathon Village in Nashville
Marathon Village is a unique combination of entertainment, business, and retail space. It was carved out of the buildings that were once part of Marathon Motor Works, which started in Jackson in 1907. The factory was the first one to manufacture cars in the southern United States, remaining the only one until GM built the Saturn in 1990.
Barry Walker purchased his first building in 1986, envisioning a thriving, creative community that supported Nashville’s future vision. His plans included spaces for affordable work studios, unique retail shops, commercial galleries, performing arts, refreshments, and event spaces.
The goal of Marathon Village is to serve as a model for how to repurpose older structures. You can see the entire roster of businesses by visiting their website.
Buildings in Marathon Village Date to 1881
The only two-story building in Marathon Village was completed around the year 1881. Most of the other structures were built between then and 1912. Because of the different architecture types involved during those creation phases, the 1988 renovation created a restored an entirely unique community.
Walker developed this four-block complex to include offices, a radio station, and even a distillery. Although some buildings are still getting restored, the Marathon name continues to live on to serve as a reminder of Nashville’s early automotive fame.
By 1913, Marathon was offering 12 different models for consumers. It was one of the leading automotive manufacturers in the country, with production barely keeping up with demand. The Nashville facility could produce 200 cars per month.
The original Marathon seemed to be the automobile that would take America by storm. It wouldn’t turn out to be that way, being manufactured for three years before financial difficulties forced the company to sell all of its equipment in Nashville. Only eight cards from that production line are known to exist today still.
What Was the Downfall of Marathon?
Marathon had three presidents in four years because of the inner turmoil in the company. Charges of not paying suppliers, making bad investments, and poor management decisions contributed to its eventual bankruptcy.
The Herff-Brooks Corporation bought the equipment and moved it to Indianapolis, but they were out of business by 1916.
Walker plans for a different outcome. Marathon Village may not bring back the glory days of automotive manufacturing, but it can help people remember them.
Marathon Village isn’t the only place with an interesting history in Nashville. Make sure to learn more about the full size Parthenon replica in Centennial Park