Mike Wolfe Takes on Historic Preservation in Nashville, TN

mike wolfe, antique archaeology, leclaire, american pickers, vintage tee, vintage home decor

The urban landscape of Nashville is changing, rapidly, and historic buildings are falling prey to new developments at an alarming rate. Mike Wolfe, after making the Middle TN area his second home, has followed his passion for things old & abandoned all the way to local building restoration. He was inspired to take on the project by the texture of an exposed brick wall – the kind of wall “people try to recreate” as he puts it.

The dilapidated building has stood on what was once Line Street since 1898 when a Hungarian Jew built a grocery store in it. Its story since then is full of twists and turns, and though it has a lot of gaps, contains chapters on immigrant housing, a dance hall or saloon of some kind, a dentist’s office, and in the 1990’s, a carry-out restaurant, a game room, a tavern & a laundro-mat. Between those chapter and the page that turned when Mike took it over, the building was vacant and taking in rain.

The “before” story unfolds in photos above and below. We look forward to bringing you the story of during and after as Mike’s vision comes to life.

Read much more on the Jo Johnston property here where Mike takes The Tennessean on a bit of walking tour.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners with Mike, read here to get all info.

mike wolfe, antique archaeology, leclaire, american pickers, vintage tee, vintage home decorThe images above appeared on @mikewolfeamericanpicker Instagram. Follow Mike here if you don’t want to miss this beauty’s progress.

mike wolfe, antique archaeology, leclaire, american pickers, vintage tee, vintage home decor
Wall paintings discovered on the 1898 building. (Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)

Shop NOW for “This Place Matters” Two Lanes Tee produced in support of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

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22 Comments

22 thoughts on “Mike Wolfe Breathes Life Into Old Property: Jo Johnston Renovation”

  1. TREVA WRIGHT

    Have access to about 80,000 square foot of vintage antiques. Would like to send you some pictures,if your interested! Thank You Treva

  2. jeff watter

    Mike
    Came across a bicycle with a bamboo framed your a bike first one I ever seen.
    And a Brooks custom they say all hand made .I have pictures if interested..

  3. David

    Hey, Mike
    I’m 17 from NYC, but my grandfather owns an historic building filled with antiques and motorcycle parts in New Jersey. We have over 1,000 records (presidential speeches, speeches, educational, sound fx). As well, we have antique school memoribilia. If you have any questions. Email me.

  4. ira hartman

    i thnk it’s great how you find old bikes and cars.i think danielle is a real beauty.here in manhattan some rich people pay a fortune for antiques.

  5. Janelle Peabody

    Mike/Frank:

    I left an email with both of your stores, so I hope they get around to you. I put lots of things in that email that I won’t put on here.

    I want to thank you for, literally, saving my sanity. Some may argue that I am sane…LOL. Since I was 17 (I am 65 now), I have led a life full of tragedy and terrible trauma. I have lost virtually everyone in my life and my health is very, very bad. Worst of all, I have depression that is worse than any one could ever imagine. To keep from getting hurt further, I stay at home most times…just go to church and run errands. Being alone (well, with only my kitties) all the time is horrible, but it is a must now. No one likes being around someone being so depressed. My son committed suicide less than a year ago and my other son won’t speak to me since before the funeral…not even at the funeral, nor would he even sit with me at the funeral and he was all I had. It seems there is mental illness all around me. I had such an idyllic childhood and I love seeing the things you find. Without my parents, my life and our entire family has fallen apart (over a will). I don’t understand why everyone can’t just get along.

    Anyway, I wanted you to know how you are making my life better. I think I have about 20 American Pickers DVRd on my TV right now. Nary a day goes by that I don’t share some time with you two. One question. My 13-year-old granddaughter comes to see me from VA once a year. Since I have so little money, I decided it would be fun to go see your store in Nashville. We went into the main little store and I thought that was all there was, so we left. Is the larger part of the building yours also? Where the big cool stuff is? I want to go back and take lots of time browsing if it is yours. If you would be so kind to let me know.

    To cheer me, I turn on your show. I DVR them and some of them I watch 2 or 3 times. You two help me because YOU are happy and you laugh and it makes me, at least, smile. You have, many times, kept me out of the dark depths of a depression bout. I am trying so hard to pull out of it, but i don’t think a mother can live long enough to go through what I have lived. Luckily, the church members have been invaluable to me and so very kind and giving. Without them, my Lord, and YOU GUYS I would not have made it. I want to thank you both (and Danielle) from the bottom of my hear for giving me some joy in life.

    Regards and thank you again.

    Janelle Peabody
    Murfreesboro, TN

  6. Scott Bormann

    I love the show & can hardly wait for it to come on every week. You, Frank, & Dannielle are so funny & very smart, I always had a thing for going to yard sales, rummages, auctions, but I hardly ever bought anything, just loved to hear the story on the items that I asked about. I also watch reruns of the show, you guys & girls are very nice people & the people you meet are so interesting that I just can’t get enough, thanks again & keep us all entertained with your show & keep on picking! I hope before I leave planet earth(d[e), I hope to visit one one your stores, probably be Iowa cause I live in Wisconsin, take care & RUST IN PEACE!!

  7. Rich White

    Janelle
    I loved your story..the things u have made it threw …my step son also killed him self last year..I am lucky to not have the depression. .keep watching happy stuff like pickers ..n try to smile as often as posible
    Rich

  8. Nancy Hyatt

    Hi there Mike/Frank,
    Last week I was in Charleston SC and you guys came to my mind.
    I have been in your Nashville store, love it, and Charleston has the same charming feeling as Nashville. Maybe a 3rd store?
    All best
    Nancy Hyatt

  9. Mike grieco

    Mike……..there is an abandoned amusement park named Williams grove…….located on mechanicsburg,pa………it is all overgrown with vegetation ,……..it was abandoned years ago……..the cars for the roller coaster are still there…..there is a flea market nearby………just wanted to let you know….it looks like a good place for picking…….I don’t know who to contact tho…..maybe if you google it you can find out……I hope you make contact and find some treasures……a loyal fan from bainbridge,pa…….mike grieco

  10. Russell Benoit

    I love the show ! But I am disappointed that I can’t shop in your stores online. I saw an episode showing you guys buying old slot cars. So I tried to find out how to possibly buy some of them without going to one of your stores. I live in the greater Seattle area. I can’t afford to travel that far so I hope one day I could shop in your stores on line someday.

    Keep it up fellas !
    Russ

  11. Sean Sheerin

    Howdy Mike, I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you :) I am hoping you can help me find something. I grew up in Boulder CO, but from Kenosha WI. Where I now live. I grew up with a love for bicycles from a very young age I can remember taking my bike apart every summer and rebuilding it, cleaning and repacking all the barring’s and so on down the line. Getting to the point I am looking for a 1975 only) Redline squareback frame and fork. I figure you are out and about all over the country and know way more bike people then me. The 1975 redline squareback has a solid frame gusset ( No holes drilled in it ) I know you probably get this kind of thing all the time, but please let me know. Thanks your friend Sean S. :)

  12. Joyce H

    Hi Guys,

    Just became a big fan of your programme. I love the history that you tell the viewers about certain items, and wish that I had the finance to begin doing what you both do. I love old books and to date can honestly say that I only have three, related to pharmacy, which is my profession. You seem more focused on the more tactile type of items, and I wondered if you have ever bought any books of some considerable age?

    Keep up the good work, great entertainment, and good clean humour. Love it.

  13. Mo

    hi there, Danielle, you great guys …Dig you all here in the Uk …. Picked myself for 30-40yrs , over 60 now and in a wheelchair, it really moves !!!

    We have here in the UK a programme called ” Combat Dealers”, this week they went to a show held in Kent , UK. once a year…(Quest TV)
    Looked right up your street..parts for bikes,combat art…it was called War and Peace, Organise them for their next visit to the UK
    The programme on at the mo , shows them visiting Finland buying from dealers, and there work shop doing up War Time BMWS, (German
    Motor Bikes.). he found a measuring cap to finish off the bmw ,$50, it has the original hangers each side too! most of his buying is for WW1.WW2 Guns etc …so much really old metal for me, not my thing, like Danielle , Adore Vintage Clothes ( 50s vamp ) Oh Yeah !!!
    If you have any over flow Dan . I would love to take a look for one or two purchases

    its worth you looking at Poland too , the prices could benefit you big time …. Their prices according to a pal, are at least 75% cheaper, they sell everything , you would have to find the biggest selling locations and have someone who could speak the lingo ….

    Shall watch out for info for all you guys …Dan ifs there is anything I can do for you in the Uk just ask … it will give me such a thrill

    Mo…..

  14. matt edward cannon

    Some old ruins won’t be useful in many areas were the local economy is radically changed for the time the building was new. I’ve seen ingin Picher,OK and here in Jacksonville,NC that will never be practical again(if you can really say never to anything.)

  15. blanquita chastain

    Janelle: Bess your heart. I understand how difficult life can be. Although life gave me several horrible blows lately. when I m overwhelmed by grief and depresion. I think about all the great years I had. When put on a balance. The good years far outweigh the bad years At any rate you seem to be very strong and moving forward. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

    Dear Mike , Frank and Danielle: Like everyone here, I absolutely love your show. In addition to entertaining. I’ve benefitted from your immense knowledge. Last week my Son fulfilled one of my greatest wishes. I visited your Nashville store.
    As delighted as I was, I to see items from your show. There are a few areas that need tweaking.
    a) The store is too small, the limited space and crowds preclude enjoyable shopping and item viewing.
    b) After comparing the actual amount you paid for some of the items, and the price of the items on your store,. One can only conclude that said items are extremely overpriced.
    In closing. I congratulate you on your store personnel. The ladies/gentleman were very helpful, patient, knowledgeable, and absolutely nice. Kat and her coworkers are a credit to your store and personify southern hospitality and charm.
    a little tid bit for future visitors. Make sure you taste and purchase the peach cobbler from the “peach cobbler factoryir rep who is under the canopy across the street. Great PRICES wonderful taste!!
    As in the show bartering should be easier and efforts to reduce prices should receive serious consideration Please remember that customers are likewise interested in caring for their hard-earned dollars.
    Thanks for the great time in your store and wonderful entertainment on T.V.
    BC

  16. Mark

    I think I’ve watched every episode available to watch over here in the uk absolutely love the picking life and wish there was an opportunity to do it on such a scale as you over here but properties are so different it wouldn’t be anything like it.
    I do have a question in one episode you were discussing how old Danielle was and suggested only way of guessing was counting her tattoos I don’t recall you finding out ??what was the outcome?

  17. Kenneth Willis

    Mike and Frank I stopped by your store in Iowa a few years ago and loved it. You guys have the best job out there. I have been picking since I was 10 and I am 66 now…I started a flea market in 2009 here in Morris and call it “Junk In The Trunk ” We were mentioned on Steven Colbert’s show with Nick Offerman. Very funny episode.. My flea market runs from April -October on the third Sunday of each month..I charge $10 per spot and all the money I collect goes to charities that I pick each month. I also sell stuff I find ,fix up,or just down sizing my collections. I dropped 2 t-shirts off when i was there at your store for You and Frank. Morris is 20 miles west of Joliet on I-80 and rt 47. The address is 100 Commercial drive in Morris. I have a lot of great stories about how JITT has helped so many people .If you ever get a chance to stop by at one of our sales it would be greatly appreciated. I usually get anywhere from 30-75 vendors. Rain day is one week after the rain out. i also have a lot of collections at my home. Coke,openers,Elvis,Gum ball machines,John Wayne,Bottles,Records , toys, A Civil War Rifle dated 1855 and much more items. Thanks ! Ken

    I also heard that Doctors were sending there hoarding patients to my Flea market for therapy to get rid of some of their stuff. People are so happy at this flea market. They would be even happier if you showed up. It would sure help me bring more customers in to help the vendors..Thanks Again ! Ken

  18. Tom Evans

    Thank you…

    This reply is to Mike and everyone involved in the tireless crusade to save, refurbish, restore, and re-purpose the countless relics of our collective history. I am a self-professed native Tennessean “History Nerd” having lived in Nashville for over 20 years. As this page attests, there has been a thunderous pace of growth in terms of both new construction and population. While I’m not one to stand in the path of growth, I do believe it is important to save what we can so that current and future generations can grow from a protracted sense of cultural diversity. Mike and his fellow crusaders have played an integral role in revitalizing the Marathon Village area (among others) which would initially lure people to various shops, events, etc. but in doing so visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural heritage of the area (and related areas elsewhere) that could not be fostered by tearing down the old, and building the new.

    It is common to see park services publish “Endangered Lists” of battlefields, but preserving items whether they are old relics or old buildings is in a sense preserving a point in time for current and future generations to grow from. I’ve worked as a rideshare driver in Nashville for several years and while the booming tourism economy thrives in the bar districts visitors commonly want to learn and experience more about Nashville whether it is the now gone club district along Jefferson Street where Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and countless others got their start, or how Nashville was given the nickname “Music City” by Queen Victoria because she was so impressed with the Fisk Jubilee Singers (whose home is only a few blocks from Marathon Village), or the history of Marathon Village itself.

    Though many other centers of cultural history may fall Mike and his crusaders are working tirelessly to save what they can and to provide a blueprint for those willing to take the more difficult path than tearing down the old and building something new.

    Keep up the good fight,
    Tom

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