Nestled in North Nashville is a neighborhood that is quaint, cozy and anchored with families that date back generations, but are yet teeming with new families that are young and vibrant.
Travel down Clarksville Highway. Then hang a left at the red light towards County Hospital Road and you’ll land in one of Nashville’s oldest African-American communities, Bordeaux Hills.
It’s an area where neighbors have close relationships. It’s a neighborhood where you could ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar or milk. The sound of happy children running the streets and playing blend to make beautiful music. On any given day, the aroma from the scrumptious dinners ease out from the cracked windows and open doors of the homes built closely together.
The neighborhood is flanked by a grocery store, Metro dog pound, a hospital and nursing home. It’s cornered by Briley Parkway, a convenient route through town. It’s an area that has not seen much development over the years compared to other parts of town, but remains progressive.
Bordeaux Garden Park after the flood.
It is a neighborhood that promised to take good care of Ruby Baker and her three kids. The family moved into Bordeaux Hills 13 years ago from a rental home in a busy neighborhood off Trinity Lane.
“It seemed to be less activity. It wasn’t as busy with a lot of cars, people coming and going. The area was quiet. I wanted my kids to have a place to play outside and I didn’t have to worry. It just kind of in a way reminded me of an old neighborhood growing up when all the kids used to hang together and would ride bikes together,” said Baker.
And that’s what she got. Life was good for Baker. She and her family were doing well in their new home that they owned. Her home is one of a little more than 800 in the Bordeaux Hills community.
Though neighbors are close and kids are playing, it’s just now returning to what it used to be after a long period of high crime.
“Things changed because it was real tense. I saw periods where it was very tense. Every day it was something going on, whether it was a fight or someone arguing. It was almost like every day or every other day,” said Baker who is president of the neighborhood association.
Younger families moved in. Kids fighting in the streets instead of playing took over. Neighbors looked out for themselves instead of each other, said Baker, who is also president of the community’s neighborhood association.
As the younger families moved in, the older residents moved out or retreated to their homes. The neighborhood Baker fell in love with was taking a turn for the worse. Gang activity crept in. Regular police patrols became the new norm. Crime was on the rise while the neighborhood morale declined.
Just as crime and bad times were preparing to fully grip the once peaceful community, Mother Nature had another plan. Two days of non-stop rain gripped parts of Middle Tennessee, hitting hardest in Nashville. Small creeks were swollen. Rivers overflowed. Drainage systems were rendered ineffective from the overpowering rush of water from the May 2010 flood.
Thousands of people were left homeless. Communities like Bordeaux Hills were saturated with water and would be changed forever. Just over 750 homes in Bordeaux Hills were damaged by the flood water.
Volunteers from around the area traveled down to Bordeaux to help the neighbors recover. Fortunately, the volunteers would join the neighbors that had already banned together to help each other.
“I went from street to street and I was in awe. When I was standing at Panorama, a street in Bordeaux Hills, and looked at the park, this feeling came over me. It’s strange but it felt like the water was looking back at me. It gave me chills. I said we’ve got to help each other,” Baker said.
As the days went by, the neighbors that were once at odds and the kids that were bickering, were now joined together, combing through debris and helping each other. A neighborhood seemingly destroyed by severe water was now being repaired by it.
“Even if it took the flood to do it, it did it. Neighbor began to help neighbor. Because of the flood, the families get together. When Thanksgiving came around, it was something because those that didn’t have flood damage, the ones that weren’t affected, they began to call each other as neighbors and celebrate Thanksgiving together,” said Baker.
Slowly but surely, Bordeaux Hills was returning to its neighborhood it was before crime became such an issue. Baker said her children are grown and have moved out but she will remain in the neighborhood she loves.