When you enter Franklin’s Mockingbird Theater, your first thought is “How did I not know about this quaint, little music venue inside The Factory?” After you experience a live performance there, you quickly realize this stage has big-time theater credentials.
What is fascinating about Franklin is that it’s part of the Americana Music Triangle – a tiny triangle of cities including Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans where nine distinct genres of music came to life.
Will Jordan’s Entertainment Legacy
Mockingbird owner Will Jordan is no stranger to live music or putting on an exhilarating concert. He is the owner of the Legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor, a local juke joint serving up rock, country, blues, and bluegrass. It is managed by Will’s son Max Kimbro’s won second place behind The Ryman Auditorium for “Best Live Music Venue” in one of The Tennessean‘s reader’s polls and second place behind The Bluebird for “Best Open Mic” in The Nashville Scene‘s reader’s poll.
Carpe Diem and Franklin Nostalgia
In the shot-gun house next door to Kimbro’s, Carpe Diem stands as Will’s cherished vintage record shop full of nostalgia. Another kind of pickin’ goes on at Carpe Diem as shoppers scour the shop’s collection of antique record players and vinyl albums your grandparents probably treasured. The store also boasts an array of old cameras, a nod to Will’s passion for photography. These two tiny spaces on South Margin Street also offer a powerful punch for music lovers and a testament to Will’s love of history and family’s legacy of preservation.
A Family of Preservationists
In fact, Will grew up in Franklin and is the son of two of our most prominent preservationists, Peter and Rudy Jordan. His father, Peter, was an advocate for historic preservation and a big supporter of Williamson County parks. He died in 2011, and the city’s Bicentennial Park was named after him for his tireless devotion to protect green spaces for our recreational enjoyment.
We can all thank Rudy Jordan, Will’s beloved mother, for making downtown Franklin “America’s Favorite Main Street.” She served as the Heritage Foundation director from 1978-1986 and then director of the Downtown Franklin Association. In 1984, Rudy led the way for the Main Street Program, which changed the face and future of downtown forever by revitalizing its 28 historic buildings and bringing the festivals like Pumpkinfest and Dickens of a Christmas to town.
“Sometimes when there is too much traffic due to downtown festivals and events, I joke with my mother that it’s her fault,” says Will. “She literally headed up the preservation movement that created the charm that defines Franklin.”
The Factory’s Original Boiler Room
Will is carrying on his parents’ preservation legacy. In 2019, he had the opportunity to take over the lease for Building 6 at The Factory. It was formerly known as Boiler Room Theater and Little Brick Theater. The Factory was truly a factory at one time when it was the home of Dortch Stoveworks. This particular space, Mockingbird Theater, is located in “the building that” really did house the boiler for the old stove manufacturing company. Its ten separate buildings were all woven together like a patchwork quilt.
The Mockingbird Find’s a Home
With Will’s new vision, he decided on a new name. He chose the name “Mockingbird” after two actual mockingbirds who were fighting in midair one day and nearly hit him in the head. He took that as a sign. Not only was this songbird a literary twist for his new music venue, it represented Tennessee’s state bird.
Mockingbird Theater reopened as a premier live performance venue. It features theater-style seating, a new state-of-the-art sound system and lighting, along with a wide stage.
What gives this venue the “historic Franklin vibe” are the exposed brick walls. It feels like you’ve stepped inside a speakeasy from a scene in The Great Gatsby. With nearly 40-foot ceilings and steel beams, the Mockingbird makes for a stunning backdrop for private events and live performances of all genres. In preserving this building, Will reminds all of us, “It’s important to remember Franklin’s history and not lose our sense of place.”
The Mockingbird can hold up to 150 people for private parties and corporate functions. It has been used as a backdrop for music videos as well. They offer a full bar, serving beer, wine, spirits, along with great food.
A Venue Worth Preserving and Supporting
The Factory is currently undergoing a facelift, thanks to new ownership. In 2021, Holladay Properties purchased the property for $56 million with a long-term capital commitment to preserve one of Franklin’s most important pieces of history. Their investment will make it even more extraordinary as a destination for local shopping, restaurants, and entertainment along with added plazas and courtyards. According to Vice President of Development, Allen Arender, Holladay Properties hopes The Factory can be a national model for adaptive re-use of an early 20th Century industrial structure because of their partnership with Nashville’s architecture firm Centric.
A Bigger Vision for Franklin’s Entertainment Future
The Mockingbird will be an essential part of The Factory’s future growth. With the combination of Mockingbird Theater, Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor, the Franklin Theatre, Puckett’s, and the Pilgrimage Music Festival at Harlinsdale, Franklin can hold its own as a music destination this side of Music City.
Coming in 2022, there are phenomenal musical acts and charitable events coming to the Mockingbird. See their upcoming events calendar. Make sure to subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on Instagram and Facebook for the latest news. For more information, visit Mockingbird Theater or call (615) 429-0157. For incredible photos, check out Will Jordan Photography.
Sharing the backstories of Franklin with love,