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New book captures images from past
By DOUG DAVIS   - 06/18/2006

The Daily News Journal

A search for old pictures of his 1920s residence led Murfreesboro businessman Bill Jakes into collecting postcards and pictures of his hometown.

Ultimately, that collection resulted in publication of the postcard book, "Murfreesboro," released this month by Arcadia Publishing.

The 127 page soft-bound book features postcards and a few pictures. Some, like the historic Rutherford County Courthouse, Stones River Battlefield and the York VA Medical Center are familiar to residents of and visitors to Rutherford County. But other scenes of churches, schools, rivers bridges, roads, hotels or motels are long gone or forgotten.

The 35-year-old Jakes and his wife, Julie Fischer, a local real estate agent and sculptor, purchased a home on North Maney Avenue on Valentine's Day 2004.

"I delved into the history of the old house," said Jakes.

The home was built in the 1920s. James Bell and his family formerly lived there. Bell was one of the sons of W.R. Bell, who once owned Bell Jewelers on the Public Square.

"I was attempting to find a picture of my house," Jakes said. "I decided to check online and that search lead me to a postcard of Murfreesboro. I had never considered the thought of old postcards being that available. The more I kept searching, the more I found."

He said the most common Murfreesboro postcards are of the James K. Polk Hotel and the Rutherford County Courthouse.

"You can get a Polk Hotel card for $5 to $10," said Jakes. "Some of the more rare ones are of houses involved in the Civil War."

One of the postcards in Jakes' book is the Mitchell log cabin, which sat along the Stones River, near McFadden's Ford. It was used as a field hospital after the skirmishes there, according to Jakes.

"I don't own (that) card, but it brought $100 the last two times I've seen it cross eBay," Jakes said.

An appreciation for the history of Murfreesboro and his interest in photography led Jakes to look for more cards on the Internet.

"Ever so often, I would find another one that I really want to have," Jakes said.

By August of 2005, Jakes had amassed a large enough collection of post cards in a picture album that he began considering the idea of putting them in a book.

"I thought if we could reproduce this in an affordable book it would be great," he said.

In "Murfreesboro," Jakes adds up-to-date information about buildings, churches or homes in captions, explaining, among other things, what stands there today if the scene has changed.

"Most of my information came from the research room at the Linebaugh Library, but I also have a number of old books about Murfreesboro that I have collected myself," he said.

He also researched information on the Internet, from the Rutherford County Historical Society and from MTSU's Gore Research Center and the Center for Historic Preservation.

One postcard caption in the book explains that the Confederate Memorial was once placed looking down East Main Street, but moved to its current location in 1914. Another caption under a Rutherford County Courthouse photo explains that the third floor to the courthouse was added and the cupola replaced in 1907 and 1908.

Even though most of the emphasis of the book is on the 200 postcard pictures, a few of the notes written on the back of the cards have been published. One note writer told her sister in Marionville, Mo., that Murfreesboro was having a lot of wind and rain in March of 1909.

One section of the book reprints photos of the tornado of 1913 that ravaged portions of downtown Murfreesboro.

Other postcards in the book are simply personal pictures.

"Kodak came out with photo-sensitive paper that were blank postcards (in the early 1900s)," said Jakes.

When he began putting the book together, Jakes also borrowed cards from other local collectors, including retired local educator Jerry Gaither, Eddie Miller of Miller and Loughry Insurance and Jim Laughlin, manager at Digital Planet on Lytle Street.

Laughlin, another student of local history, is excited about the release of the new book.

"It is a good remembrance of the past," he said. "How many people 35 years old take the time to do this? The postcards are one thing but the writing is very accurate."

Susan Daniel, editor of publications for the Rutherford County Historical Society, is looking forward to seeing the new book.

"The postcards will show pictures of places and buildings in Rutherford County that in some cases don't exist anymore," she said. "At least it will show them at the time the postcard came out."

Copies of the book are available at area merchants and Oaklands Historic House Museum.

Jakes will be speaking, and signing copies of the book at Oaklands, 900 N. Maney Ave. in Murfreesboro on June 27, beginning at 7 p.m. He will also sell the book at the Uncle Dave Macon Days festival at Cannonsburgh Village July 7-9. He will also speak at the Rutherford County Historical Society meeting July 17 at 7 p.m. at the Carriage Lane Reception House , 337 E. Burton St. in Murfreesboro. Books will be on sale there as well for $19.99 each.

"This is a historic document. Hopefully, it will be laying around on library shelves for another 100 years," said Jakes. "My major motivation was to make some of these pictures more accessible to everybody."

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