Home Local News Nashville mourns the passing of Nathaniel Harris

Nashville mourns the passing of Nathaniel Harris

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Nathaniel “Nate” Harris

Nashville is mourning the passing of long-standing community leader, Nathaniel “Nate” Harris, owner of Woodcuts Art Gallery on Jefferson Street.

“We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Nathaniel “Nate” Harris of Woodcuts Gallery and Framing,” Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore posted on Facebook.  “He has been an entrepreneur and a pillar of our community who operated his business on historic Jefferson Street for over 35 years.

“Nate’s dedication to Woodcuts not only beautified our spaces but also enriched our lives, leaving an indelible mark on all who had the pleasure of knowing him and experiencing his work. As we reflect on his legacy, we are reminded of the path he paved for Black entrepreneurs and the profound impact he had as a role model to many. His vision, leadership, and spirit of community will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and all those touched by his remarkable life. Rest in power, Nate. Your legacy will continue to inspire and guide us.”

Harris founded Woodcuts in 1987 due to his love of woodworking.

Nathaniel Harris, helped to change the course of economic development on Jefferson Street. Raised in Historic North Nashville, Nathaniel (affectionately called Nate) started his business amongst skeptics. Nate’s love for woodworking began as a child. His father, a contractor, passed away when Nathaniel was only 8 years old, but not before he passed along his love for entrepreneurship to his youngest son.

After graduating from TSU and beginning a burgeoning career in engineering, Nate still gravitated toward woodworking, doing picture framing and cabinet making after hours. His framing business started thriving when his wife Brenda started getting her cross-stitch artwork framed and showing them to her co-workers. They requested framing and word spread. What started out as a woodworking shop in his garage spread to the living room, and started to take over the kitchen, so his wife suggested he find a retail location to truly expand.

Nathaniel Harris speaks at the dedication of the Historical Marker for Woodcuts Gallery. (photo from Woodcuts Gallery’s Facebook page)

Once a building people went to for hamburgers, and later Whiting H&G fish sandwiches and bean pies, 1613 Jefferson had become a refuge for drug addicts, riddled with needles and trash. Using his construction background and experience as a draftsman, he worked nights and weekends, with the help of his wife, daughter, and other family members, to get the building ready for business.

Depleting his retirement account, securing funding from historic Citizen’s Bank and Trust, and with help from Nashville Minority Business Development Center, Nate secured an agreement with Fisk to lease the building, with a strict timeline. From May 1987, he had until September to have the work completed and his business open. Rising to the challenge, Woodcuts Gallery opened to the public September 23, 1987.

Nate, the first president of Jefferson United Merchants Partnership (J.U.M.P), used his own workspace as an example of what can be done with old buildings, many vacant, others in disrepair.

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