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East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage
The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) today announced its 2011 East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage list of endangered historic buildings and places in the sixteen-county region. The announcement took place at 11:00 a.m. at the East Tennessee History Center, located at 601 South Gay Street in downtown Knoxville.
This marks the second list of endangered historic places selected by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance Board of Directors from nominations received from members and the general public. Preservation strategies will be developed for each site on the list and can include working with current property owners, government officials, citizens and/or potential new owners to preserve these important parts of East Tennessee’s heritage. In some cases, ETPA will organize volunteer work days to help stabilize and protect sites.
East Tennessee Preservation Alliance partners with organizations and businesses across the region to find preservation solutions for the identified endangered properties and encourages the communities across the region to join us in our efforts to save our area’s endangered heritage.
The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance works to protect places and structures with historic or cultural significance in Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties. It is governed by a board of directors with representatives from across the region. ETPA carries out its mission through a variety of programs and encourages community support through education and advocacy.
Please see below for the complete 2011 list of East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage and a description of each property.
Descriptions of the 2011 East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage list:
Historic Dandridge School - Jefferson County
Barbara Garrow, Dandridge Community Trust Chair and ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-397-3977
Designed by notable Knoxville architects Barber McMurry, Historic Dandridge School was built in 1927 and is similar to many of the other schools designed by the firm during that era. It was built to replace the Maury Academy that was demolished for a new Post Office.
The school building was sold by the county at an auction 10 years ago to a private individual with no long term plans for the building or site. Today, most of the building is empty and the 1950s addition is used as a mechanic’s shop.
ETPA strongly encourages the property owner to repair the roof leaks and mitigate the water damage so the building does not become a product of “demolition by neglect.” ETPA will continue working with the Dandridge Community Trust and the Town of Dandridge to find a new buyer for the building who will rehabilitate the historic school so it can continue to be useful.
Rural Mount – Hamblen County
Rural Mount was likely built in 1799 by Alexander Outlaw as a wedding gift for his daughter, Penelope, and her new husband, Joseph Hamilton. Outlaw and Hamilton were early proponents for the organization of the State of Franklin and later the establishment of the State of Tennessee. Hamilton was the first clerk of Jefferson County and one of the original trustees of Greenville College, the first state school.
The house is one of a few surviving stone houses in East Tennessee from the eighteenth century. Constructed in a random ashlar limestone pattern, the house has seen little alteration since construction. In fact, many of the original architectural details, such as the decorative scrollwork on the staircase, remain, and evidence of decorative painting can be seen on the wainscoting. In 1974, the house was measured and documented for the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) and in 1975 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The house has been empty for about 30 years and sits in an active cow pasture. Fortunately, the roof is sound and the building has been secured from vandals, but the house will not survive without a viable use and immediate attention. ETPA will work closely with the property owner to help develop long term plans for the unique house.
Rose Glen – Sevier County
At one time, Rose Glen was one of the largest plantations in Sevier County and East Tennessee. Established in the late 1840s by Dr. Robert Hatton Hodsden, attending physician for the Cherokee Removal and prominent politician, the site includes a Greek Revival house, physician’s office, cantilevered barn, and other period outbuildings.
The house is one of the few remaining Greek Revival style houses in East Tennessee and by historian Robbie Jones’ account, the “most impressive antebellum house ever constructed in Sevier County.” Some believe the two-story house, flanked with single story wings, was inspired by the architect Minard Lafever’s “Design for a Country Villa.” Lafever’s plans were published in two books in 1833 and 1835.
Today the house and outbuildings sit behind a chain link fence, but the long term future of the plantation is undetermined. ETPA encourages the property owner and family to sell or donate the important landmark to an individual or organization who is able to rehabilitate the site. Due to encroaching development, the area is also endangered of being overtaken by new residential or commercial projects.
Oak Grove School – Union County
Bonnie Peters, Union County Historian and ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-687-3842
The Oak Grove School is a two room schoolhouse built in the early 1930s to replace the original Oak Grove School, which was displaced by the Norris Dam project. At the same time, about 25 other one and two-room schools were built in Union County to house the rural schoolchildren.
Today only a handful of these school buildings remain, and Oak Grove School is ripe for revitalization. Sitting in Sharps Chapel behind one of the Union County convenience centers, the school’s fate is unknown. Last year, Preservation Union County organized several volunteer work days to help clean out the interior of the building and clear away vegetation. Additionally, a local contractor has worked with volunteers and donated materials to replace and rebuild parts of the compromised foundation.
Several potential reuses, such as a satellite library, community center, and a small office have been proposed for the building. ETPA will continue to partner with Preservation Union County and the Union County government, who owns the building, to paint and repair the building and find a suitable use.
Alexander Inn - Anderson County
Kate Groover, Executive Director of ORRE, can be reached at 865-560-6904
The Alexander Inn (originally known as The Guest House) was built in 1943 in Oak Ridge to serve the “Secret City.” The wood framed building, similar to many other World War II “H-plan” buildings, served as guest quarters to a number of dignitaries during the top-secret Manhattan Project, including Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, and General Leslie Groves. In 1949, a 44-room addition was completed to accommodate the expanding Oak Ridge community. In September 1950, the name was changed to the Alexander Inn. The hotel was sold by the government to Mr. W. W. Faw for $34,000 in 1958 and the hotel continued serving the community until the mid 1990s when the doors were closed.
Since that time it has been privately owned and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, although it is in serious disrepair. In February 2009, Knox Heritage partnered with the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association to host a fundraiser for preservation efforts in Oak Ridge. The book signing event that featured Jon Jefferson and Dr. William Bass raised $4,000 and helped raise awareness about the Alexander Inn, which is prominently featured in Jefferson Bass’ latest novel, Bones of Betrayal.
In December 2009, a newly formed nonprofit organization, Oak Ridge Revitalization Effort (ORRE), acquired the landmark building. Since then, ORRE has organized volunteer work days to clean out and stabilize the building. In addition, ORRE has hosted several fundraisers and sought donations to help “Save the Alexander.” Even with the new owners, the future is uncertain for the Alexander Inn. ETPA will continue working with ORRE and other partners in Oak Ridge to ensure the future of the Alexander Inn is secure for generations.
The Martin Mansion - Blount County
Ken Cornett, Blount County Historian and ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-982-3594
Warner Martin first visited East Tennessee in the early 1780s on a military assignment to chase the Cherokee Indians back south of the Chilhowee Mountains. He came here from Fairfax, Virginia, where he was a neighbor and friend of George Washington. While on this expedition, Martin came across the clear, fast-flowing springs and knoll above Nails Creek, an ideal site for a home. He marked the site with a "skin," an animal hide, likely that of a deer, stretched to a tree. He is said to have completed the first part of his pine frame "mansion" about 1793. The two-story structure was one of the first frame (non-log) houses in Blount County.
The entire house’s framing and siding were slash-sawn from heart of pine found on the property in Martin’s sawmill. The house was completed by 1800 as a fine Federal Style with delicate woodwork that still remains today. The limestone foundation stones were cut from a nearby outcropping. Bricks for the chimney were molded from clay and fired with wood in a kiln on the farm.
ETPA and the Blount County Historical Trust hosted a volunteer work day during National Preservation Month last year to repair the metal roof and clear vegetation from around the house. The house desperately needs to be secured to prevent any further damage from the elements, and ETPA encourages the property owner to continue working with preservationists to find solutions for the significant house.
Old LaFollette Post Office - Campbell County
Gerry Myers, ETPA board member, can be reached at 423-494-0868
Mayor Mike Stanfield can be reached at 423-562-4961
The construction on the LaFollette Post Office began in 1936 as part of the Worker’s Progress Administration under President Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative. In 1939, the Post Office was dedicated and served the LaFollette community until a new Post Office was opened in 2008.
The old post office is still owned by the USPS and has approximately 4,000 square feet of floor space. It had been well maintained until it was vacated by the USPS. The Post Office had been listed for $435,000, but in two years no reasonable offer had been made, so the contract expired.
Since the property is owned by the Federal Government, any transaction would trigger a Section 106 review, which could place restrictive preservation covenants on the property to protect the integrity of the significant building. However, without a viable buyer the Post Office continues to languish on the market.
ETPA hopes a qualified buyer can be found or that the City of LaFollette can work out an arrangement with the USPS to acquire the building for use the Campbell County Historical Society. ETPA will continue working with the USPS representatives in Atlanta and the City of LaFollette to arrange a suitable transaction for both parties.
Graham-Kivette House - Claiborne County
The Graham-Kivette House, built circa 1810, is the oldest home in Tazewell and one of only a few buildings that survived a disastrous fire in 1862. It was built by William Graham, a merchant and one of the founders of Tazewell. James Kivette acquired the home at the turn of the 20th century from William Yoakam, its then current owner. Kivette was a lawyer and coal mine operator. His daughter, Louise Kivette Redman, was a novelist and had several books published.
Since the death of John Kivette, the last descendant of the Kivette family, the house has remained empty for a number of years, while the executors of the will figure out what to do with it. Due to a lack of maintenance, the masonry is in need of repointing, the foundation is sinking on the right side of the building, and wood is beginning to deteriorate due to rot. The porch roof and possibly the standing seam metal roof on the main portion of the house are in need of replacing. Portions of the interiors are beginning to deteriorate due to dampness, and paint and wallpaper are peeling from the walls.
ETPA hopes that listing the house will help draw local awareness to the historic value of the house and the necessity of action before the house is lost due to neglect, deterioration, or fire. Plans are underway for a volunteer work day to help secure the house. ETPA will continue working with community leaders in Tazewell, Claiborne Historical Society, and the East Tennessee Development District to determine the most effective strategy to protect this community resource.
Gilliland-Odell House - Cocke County
The Gilliland-Odell house is the only surviving structure of the old town of New Port, which was established as the seat of Cocke County in 1799. The town remained the county seat until about 1884 when all county offices were moved to the present town of Newport on the Cincinnati, Cumberland Gap and Charleston railroad lines.
The town-site formerly was occupied by about 150 inhabitants and had a brick courthouse; a two-story log jail; the Anderson Academy, also a brick building built circa 1840; two fine churches; the brick circa 1845 Zion Methodist and a circa 1837 frame building for Pisgah Presbyterian, along with several other stores and residences.
Overlooking the French Broad River, the unique Federal Style house was constructed circa 1814 and faces the old Washington Post Road. The house is a two story brick on a raised basement of cut limestone. The most interesting aspect of the house are the entrance doors on the first and second floors. This central section is all wood extending upwards to a brick arch over the second floor doorway. The second floor door is topped with an arched fanlight. The entire assemblage is flanked with wooden Ionic pilasters. A similar arrangement is found on the rear façade.
ETPA will continue working with the property owner and her family to ensure the house is preserved for future generations.
Abandoned Rural Schoolhouses - Grainger County
Ken Coffey, Grainger County Historian and ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-767-2333
In most rural communities, small one- or two-room schoolhouses were built to serve the immediate community. As communities and education evolved, larger school buildings were built to accommodate more students and more grade levels. In Grainger County, several abandoned rural schoolhouses still remain and should be protected.
ETPA recognizes that each of these schools present unique challenges and each will have a unique solution. Unfortunately, little background information is available for some of these rural schools. ETPA will work with property owners and local officials to help develop plans for these and other abandoned rural schoolhouses in the region. Several other prominent schoolhouses in Sevier and Union Counties are also endangered.
Morristown College - Hamblen County
Mayor Sami Barile can be reached at 423-581-0100
Todd Morgan, Program Director for Morristown’s Community Development Corporation and ETPA board member, can be reached at 423-581-0100
Morristown College campus sits on a picturesque hill close to downtown Morristown, which is about halfway between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities in upper east Tennessee.
Founded in 1881 by the national Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, it was originally known as Morristown Normal and Industrial College before evolving into Morristown College and later Knoxville College-Morristown Campus. The original building was constructed on the site of a former slave market from hand-pressed bricks made on site. Following the Civil War, it became a secondary school at which freedmen were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic.
At the height of its enrollment, the school occupied 12 buildings and encompassed 375 acres. Today the college property stands at 51 acres and 7 of the 9 buildings are listed in the National Register.
The buildings have remained vacant for a number of years, been thoroughly vandalized, and been left open to the elements for much of that time. The campus is privately owned and available for purchase; however, the current owner has no interest in preserving the campus and even threatened to demolish the buildings at one point. Past development plans have fallen through because potential buyers were not able to come to a purchase price agreement with the owner. In September 2008, a devastating fire engulfed the historic Cafeteria building and was a stark reminder of the imminent threat of fire damage to vacant buildings. Then in December 2010, a massive fire practically destroyed the Laura Yard Hill Administration Building.
The campus is adjacent to a historic residential area currently undergoing a "clean-up" initiative and a new historic homeowners association has been formed. It is close to downtown and the city would be willing to work with a developer on infrastructure improvements.
ETPA urges the negligent property owner to sell or donate the property to a suitable buyer who can make use of the campus. Federal tax incentives and other opportunities are available to help offset the cost of the rehabilitation of the buildings.
Quaker Valley - Jefferson County
Harvey Young, Jefferson County Tomorrow, can be reached at 865-789-2511
While ETPA is mostly centered on the preservation of historic buildings, the conservation of the ever-shrinking rural landscape and scenic vistas are also critical to maintaining East Tennessee’s character and beauty. In New Market, 280 acres of historic farmland known as Quaker Valley are in the crosshairs of developers. The land has recently been the center of controversy as residents in Jefferson County try to prevent a proposed development by Norfolk Southern Railway that would change the rural landscape forever.
Jefferson County Tomorrow, a community driven non-profit, was formed to organize citizens against the development. The group has effectively challenged the job creation claims and the economic impact of the proposed railyard. Simply put, the new intermodal railyard would create roughly the same number of jobs that would be lost if the farms were taken out of use.
ETPA strongly urges Norfolk Southern and local officials in Jefferson County to use an existing industrial site for the intermodal railyard, a solution that would preserve the rural farmland in New Market and limit the negative environmental impact on prime agricultural land.
Central Business District of Lenoir City - Loudon County
As a reward for his services during the Revolutionary War, General William Lenoir was given 5,000 acres from the state of North Carolina along the northern bank of the Tennessee River that would eventually become Lenoir City.
The land was given to Lenoir’s eldest son, Major William Ballard Lenoir, who farmed the land and built a house for his family. The land remained in the Lenoir family until 1876 and later was sold to the Lenoir City Company, which was formed by Knoxville and New York City businessmen who laid out the town and built many of the homes surrounding downtown.
With the completion of the Interstate, the Lenoir City Central Business District began to decline. Like many small towns in East Tennessee, the Interstate construction was a blessing and a curse. The changes in traffic patterns have diverted traffic from historic centers and sparked a wave of new development outside of downtown.
ETPA will work with local leaders in Lenoir City and local businesses to help revitalize the central business district by using Main Street principles and models that have worked in similar communities. Additionally, ETPA hopes the community can participate in the Tennessee Downtowns program that helps mentor communities through the Main Street principles. The City has already laid the groundwork for a successful downtown with beautification projects, but with the downturn in the economy, many storefronts are empty and businesses are closing their doors.
Boyhood Home of Estes Kefauver - Monroe County
Monroe County Historian, Jo Stakely, can be reached at 423-420-0910
Property owner, Nancy Haun, can be reached at 865-803-4091
Built around 1846 by New York-born craftsman Thomas Blanchard, this house is a wonderful example of the transitional Federal-Greek Revival style. It features handsome architectural pattern book details and a graceful pediment-sided portico.
Around 1912, the family of future U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver moved into the home and he was raised there. Kefauver was a colorful figure who served in the Senate from 1948 until 1963. He served as the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1956 under Adlai Stevenson and chaired 1951 hearings on organized crime, the first Senate hearings to be nationally televised.
A devastating fire ravaged the house in January 2006 and the owners, descendants of Senator Kefauver, had intended to restore the property and live there, but their efforts have stalled. Local codes officials and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen organized a committee work with the property owners to find solutions, but the meetings never materialized.
In October 2010, ETPA and the UT Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy hosted “Estes Kefauver Day” in Madisonville to promote Kefauver’s legacy. ETPA continues to urge the property owners to restore, sell, or donate the house to ensure the architectural and historically significant house remains standing and can find a new use. Additionally, ETPA is working with other partners to list the house in the National Register of Historic Places. The Estes Kefauver legacy is endangered of being forgotten and his boyhood home is a vivid reminder of his fading memory.
Former Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex - Morgan County
Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was built as a reaction to the Convict Lease Wars that were raging in the coal regions of Tennessee. The Tennessee General Assembly voted to construct two state prisons and end the practice of leasing convicts for private labor. In 1894, the state acquired over 9,000 acres for the construction of the remote Brushy Mountain State Prison in Petros. An additional 4,000 acres were added later. Inmates would mine coal and then cut timber from the state’s holdings for use in large brick ovens to turn the Tennessee coal into “coke,” a carbonaceous residue used as fuel and for producing steel. Inmates produced the prison’s first coke in October 1897.
After labor disputes in the early 1970s, state officials closed the prison for approximately three years; it reopened in 1978. Over the next twenty years, the state made various improvements to the New Deal-era prison buildings as well as adding two major facilities within the prison wall, a Maximum Security Building (1989), which replaced some of the prison’s recreational areas, and a new Law Library/Classroom Building (1998).
Brushy Mountain shuttered its doors in the summer of 2009 and the state has no long term plans for the massive facility. ETPA encourages the state to continue working with Morgan County leaders to find a viable use for the massive facility that would preserve the building and its history.
Neglected Cemeteries – Entire Region
Pat Garrow, Chair of the ETPA Cemetery Task Force, can be reached at 865-548-8802
Since fall 2009, ETPA’s Cemetery Task Force has been working to develop solutions for cemetery preservation issues across the region by examining the state burial laws. The Task Force is currently sharing those findings with city and county mayors in the region for their feedback.
In February 2010, ETPA announced the Slave Cemetery Registry Project that will help document and raise awareness for slave cemeteries across East Tennessee. Many of these cemeteries are overgrown with vegetation and barely marked with small fieldstones, making identification difficult.
ETPA encourages awareness of neglected cemeteries in all 16 counties. Many cemeteries are moved to make way for new developments, but often graves and remains are neglected or not properly transferred to the new cemetery. With this in mind, we will work with communities, churches, and organizations to facilitate maintenance and long term adoption of these cemeteries.
New Salem Baptist Church - Sevier County
Alverrene Bridgeforth, ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-531-1898
The New Salem Baptist Church was built in 1886 by Isaac Dockery, a noted African-American builder, and is Sevierville’s oldest surviving building, Sevier County’s oldest brick church building, and the only historic African American church in the county. The church served the thriving African American community until the 1950s when the last services were held by the original congregation.
Since that time, the church has been used by other congregations and denominations, and the historic integrity has slowly been chipped away. The original bell tower and pulpit furniture have been removed and the overall interior has been altered significantly.
Even with these changes, the church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and a Tennessee Historical marker was placed on the grounds in 2006. The building suffers from lack of maintenance and ventilation issues, which are compromising the structure.
Today the church and grounds are used for the Annual Dockery Family Reunion, which draws hundreds of descendants to the church and idyllic grounds. The Dockery Family Association has been working with the East Tennessee Community Design Center, the African American Heritage Alliance, and ETPA to find a long term preservation solution for the building that would preserve the legacy of the building and the contributions of the congregation.
J. Will Taylor House - Union County
Bonnie Peters, Union County Historian and ETPA board member, can be reached at 865-687-3842
The circa 1880 home of The Honorable J. Will Taylor is one of the most historically significant houses in Union County and is completely abandoned. The late Mr. Taylor was a U. S. Congressman, Postmaster General of the United States, and native of Union County.
When famed one-armed fiddle player “Bit” Rouse passed away a few years ago, the ownership of the house and property was in question. Many believed Rouse owned the J. Will Taylor House, but now the ownership is wrapped up in Rouse’s estate. The property records have not been updated since the 1890s, so it is unclear who actually holds title to the property.
ETPA encourages the property owner to come forward soon to work with Preservation Union County and ETPA to find a preservation solution for the house. Both groups will work with the owner to also find a suitable buyer for the house. The solutions could involve selling, restoring, or potentially moving the house.
Preservation field services provided by Knox Heritage are assisted by a Partners in the Field challenge grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, visit www.preservationnation.org.