NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 21, 2000)—On the same day it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of Firestone, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. gave the state of Tennessee a gift of land for centuries to come.
The tire company donated approximately 6,000 wilderness acres in central Tennessee to the state, its second such gift of land in two years. In 1998, BFS gave the state 4,000 acres, adjacent to the recent gift. Together, the two parcels have created an unspoiled tract 10,000 acres in size.
"This donation, like the one before it, stems from Bridgestone/Firestone´s desire to preserve the environmental integrity and natural beauty of this property for generations to come," BFS Chairman and CEO Masatoshi Ono said at a press conference at the Tennessee Capitol April 13.
Now known as the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness, the combined donation represents one of the largest land donations in the state of Tennessee—and, perhaps, the nation—by a private company, Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist said.
The land, located in White and Van Buren Counties in central Tennessee north of Chattanooga, is a blend of meadows, hardwood forests, pasture land, white water, scenic bluffs, unexplored caves and mountains.
"It truly is one of the most significant gifts to conservation in the history of corporate America," said John Turner, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Va.-based organization dedicated to protecting the land.
"The size, the value, the quality of resources and the selfless way the company is committed to wilderness, that´s why it is unique," he said of the donation.
The property originally belonged to the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., which Bridgestone Corp. acquired in 1988. Firestone had bought the land between 1970 and 1972 for $1.2 million with the intention of developing it into a company retreat or resort. Since then, Firestone and, later, BFS have maintained the property. The company still owns 5,000 acres in the area.
To commemorate the land donation, which is part of the company´s celebration of the Firestone centennial, BFS commissioned a full-color photo book of the area entitled Scott´s Gulf: The Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness. The book features works from former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr. and renowned nature photographer John Netherton.
The former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. was founded by Harvey Firestone Sr. in Akron in 1900.
Following the donation ceremony in the morning, the tire maker hosted a cocktail reception and Centennial Celebration Show for more than 2,500 employees and guests later that evening.
The cocktail portion, at Nashville´s Opryland Hotel, featured displays of historical tires and collectible automobiles, including a rare and fully restored 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, which was owned by Bridgestone Corp. founder Shojiro Ishibashi.
The crowd then moved to the nearby Grand Ole Opry House for a two-hour Centennial Celebration Show. With music performed by the Firestone Orchestra, the program included snippets of company history and speeches by Bridgestone Chairman Yoichiro Kaizaki, company executives and local and state dignitaries.
The company also recognized some of those who contributed to Firestone´s success, including members of Harvey Firestone´s family and several Indianapolis 500 drivers who won on Firestone tires.
The program also included several touching moments, when the company recognized its oldest living employees, longest current serving employees, three generations of Firestone employees and long-standing suppliers and tire dealers.