Over the past few years, more than 1,000 hackerspaces and probably twice as many coworking spaces have cropped up all over the planet. They offer shared equipment and desks, as well as a sort of power-in-numbers ideology that is appealing to lots of independent workers. But what about the artisans and tradespeople who need a different sort of workshop? 

In Nashville, Tennessee, Fort Houston has filled that void with 10,000 square feet of shared workspace. Somewhere between 60 and 70 members have signed on with Fort Houston over the past couple of years, with 30 to 40 of those being regulars, which means their goal to be "Facilitators of Human Potential" is right on track. Fort Houston's Dream Manager/Director of the Arts, Zach Duensing, says that the mix of tenants is pretty evenly split between professionals and hobbyists, with the latter group mostly coming in on weekends and evenings. On any given workday, the space is abuzz with activity. There's a wood shop, a darkroom, a photo studio, a bike shop, some desks, and a small hackerspace replete with a 3D printer. Oh, and they offer classes to the broader community.

Fort Houston is reflective of changes happening in Nashville. As Duensing notes, once word got out that there was more than just country music here, people in their 20s and 30s have flocked to Music City over the past five to 10 years. Top-tier restaurants and hipster coffee shops paved the way, being boosted to some degree by venture capital money that's being filtered into the local economy through tech startups. Put it all together and it means that the cultural, tech, and entrepreneurial scenes are booming, all while cost of living in Nashville still remains fairly reasonable, at least for now.

Take a peek inside Fort Houston:

A handmade insignia watches over the Fort Houston conference room.


A screen printer churns out Fort Houston merchandise.


The maker space, where anything is possible.


An art exhibit stands as evidence of the creative potential in the space.


The Fort Houston darkroom, part of a full, on-site photo studio. 


The wood shop hosts both pros and hobbyists with a vision.


The hands of an artisan, as a hard-earned badge of honor.


The 3D printer in Fort Houston's hackerspace gets a workout.

Photos by Julia Williford for Fort Houston.

Kelly McCartney


Kelly McCartney |

Having won prestigious literary competitions in both grade school and junior high, I attended college with a Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship, earned a BA in Journalism, and interned at Entertainment

Things I share: I seek. I write. I think. I roam. I listen. I care. I wonder. I help. I flirt. I try. I dream. I grow.

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