Kossie Gardner Sr. Park opens on historic Jefferson Street

At dedication for Kossie Gardner Sr Park are l-r his great granddaughter Dr Janice Riley-Burt, his granddaughter Keisha Gardner Beard and his grandson Kossie Gardner III (photo by Cass Teague)

Kossie “K” Gardner Sr. is being honored by the designation of Metro Nashville’s ‘pocket park’ at 1606 Jefferson Street. The park is being developed across the street from the K. Gardner Building, which housed the K. Gardner Funeral Home for decades. Gardner has been recognized as a ‘Renaissance Man’ for his numerous successful business endeavors and his rise as a self-made man from a farm to a financial powerhouse.

A Dedication and Naming event Thursday, January 9 featured speeches and the unveiling of a sign designating the park “Kossie Gardner Sr. Park.” In the crowd were hundreds of well-wishers and dozens of elected officials and community leaders, as well as several of Gardner’s relatives and descendants including a few grand-children.

“Nashville Metro Parks honored my grandfather’s legacy by naming one of their new parks after him,” said Kossie Gardner, III, an occasional contributor to the PRIDE and proud Fisk University alumnus, after the event. “I’ve never been more proud to carry his name… thank you to all my friends and family that came out to support.” During the event, comments by his sister Keisha Gardner Beard, Gardner Sr.’s grand-daughter were heartfelt and personal.

A flyer for the event had stated as follows: Kossie “K” Gardner Sr. (1897-1990). Kossie Gardner Senior was born in Pulaski, Tennessee as Carthagerius Cosby. His name was changed when he was signed over to as an indentured apprentice to Daniel and Ella Gardner. According to the city’s daily paper, “Gardner was a true portrait of a self-made man with little formal schooling who emerged from being farmer, Pullman porter, and an undertaker to become one of the area’s most revered community leaders.”

The paper went on to state, “Gardner operated schools of trade in various occupations, had a dairy farm of over 89 acres, a construction company, was instrumental in the formation of the (Gardner) Gold Coast subdivision plus many other business and community ventures. He will be remembered for the Tasty Grill in downtown Nashville, the black Masonic building on Fourth Avenue North, Hills of Calvary Cemetary and his live radio program on WNAH for almost 15 years.

“Mr. Gardner is credited with operating the first motorized ambulance service in the city and owning a successful funeral home business on Jefferson Street for more than 70 years. Formerly Jefferson Street Pocket Park, 1606 Jefferson Street, Nashville TN 37208.”

“This park is a true collaborative effort with input and involvement from several Metro departments,” said Metro Parks Director Monique Odum. “It is our hope and our vision that this park will become a civic space where Nashvillians can engage history, culture and community – a space that will feature a plaza, a mural wall and play equipment. A space that will accommodate events, music, and other outdoor activities – a space that will be just as vibrant as Jefferson Street was in the 30s and 40s.”

She thanked the Metro Arts Commission, Nashville Civic Design Center, Metro Historical Commission, Fisk University and Tennessee State University, Metro Parks Planning & Facilities Development staff, Metro Water Services and Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA). Rick Switt gave comments from Metro Water Services as did Jamie Berry, Director of Communications, from MDHA. Brenda Haywood, Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement spoke.