Old Factories Made New

Marathon Village honors the brief history of Nashville auto production

The history of the automobile is never more apparent than in the cars we cherish. We see them on concours lawns and at show and shines, on weekend drives and in our own garages. Cars are in your face.

The places they originated, not so much. The American landscape — the real one, not just the “automotive” one — is dotted with the industrial ruins of automotive history. There’s beauty in ruin, of course, and that’s what drew developer — and Marathon collector — Barry Walker to the old Marathon Motors factory in Nashville, Tennessee.

Auto production ceased there in 1914, and Walker began buying factory buildings in 1986. “Back then, downtown Nashville was kind of dead,” he says. “But I started renovating the administration building for my shop and had enough room to start leasing out the studios to creative-type people.”

Today, the Marathon car may be all but forgotten, but the factory buildings still stand proudly. Marathon Village is a four-block complex that houses 77 tenants in office space, studios for artists and photographers, a radio station, a fitness center, Corsair Distillery and Antique Archeology, which is run by Mike Wolfe of the TV show American Pickers.

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