NASHVILLE, Indiana – Nights are longer and cooler. Leaves seem to have been painted before dawn with brilliant hues of red and gold. Pumpkins adorn roadside stands and Indian corn hangs from stalks.
Nature is celebrating autumn. The hills and hollers of Brown County, Indiana, are alive with the fall foliage for which this area is famous. The natural beauty attracted my mother more than half a century ago and now it calls me back again and again with its return to a simpler life that can be found in Brown County.
“People come here because we are a bit of days gone by,” said Liana Franklin, owner of The Totem Post shop. “They like the quaintness and the nostalgia.”
Nestled in the hills of South Central Indiana, the county’s reputation as an art colony goes back more than a century when artists first came to the area on sketching tours, either hiking or by horse and buggy. In the late 1800s, William McKendress Snyder became the first artist to sketch in Brown County.
Then in August 1900, an article appeared in a Chicago newspaper that changed the future of Brown County. The story extolled the scenic beauty, the quaint log cabins and the stalwart hill people. Adolph Schulz, a Wisconsin native and Chicago artist, decided to check out the story for himself. “A sense of peace and loveliness never before experienced came over me,” he wrote.
By October of 1926, the first art gallery was opened in Nashville. It was an immediate success. Tourists who had heard about the beauty of Brown County began making pilgrimages to see the hills, forests and streams and to buy the artists’ works. So popular did it become that the Milwaukee Journal reported in 1949 that Nashville had the most important art gallery between New England and New Mexico.
Although painters were probably the first artists to move to Brown County, the area now has a wealth of artists in different mediums. An unofficial estimate notes that at least 800 artists live in Brown County. Their work ranges across painting, pottery, weaving, photography, writing, carving, jewelry making, woodworking, furniture making, musical instrument crafting and other arts and crafts.
Many folks head for one of the top 10 most visited state parks – Brown County State Park. With 15,000 acres of natural wonders and a lovely lodge, Brown County State Park is accessible at its northern entrance via Indiana’s only divided, two-lane covered bridge (circa 1838).
The 4-square-mile Nashville with its 1,084 residents is a very walkable town and that has become an autumn tradition for me. On a recent morning, I parked in a free lot several streets away from downtown, and browsed my way through shops toward the Hobnob Corner Restaurant for a Hoosier breakfast, complete with fried potatoes, biscuits and homemade apple butter – a fitting end for a treasure-filled day.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Brown County, Indiana, contact the Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 753-3255, www.browncounty.com