Preservationists debut list of endangered sites in 16 ET counties

By News Sentinel staff
The 2010 East Tennessee Endangered Heritage List includes 14 endangered historic buildings and places in a 16-county region. The announcement took place at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St.

Sites on the inaugural list include a Manhattan Project era hotel in Oak Ridge, the childhood home of Estes Kefauver, abandoned rural schoolhouses in Grainger County, the old Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex, the Roane County-Emory Gap Cemetery and the Old Lafollette Post Office in Campbell County.

The list of endangered historic places was selected by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance Board of Directors from nominations received from members and from the general public. Preservation strategies are 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 parts of East Tennessee's heritage.

In some cases, the alliance will organize volunteer work days to help stabilize and protect sites.

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

Here are the 14 sites on the 2010 East Tennessee Endangered Heritage List:

-- Alexander Inn-Anderson County

-- The Martin Mansion-Blount County

-- Old Lafollette Post Office-Campbell County

-- Graham Kivett House-Claiborne County

-- Gilleland Odell House-Cocke County

-- Abandoned rural schoolhouses-Grainger County

-- Morristown College-Hamblen County

-- Quaker Valley-Jefferson County

-- Central Business District of Lenoir City-Loudon County

-- Boyhood home of Estes Kefauver-Monroe County

-- Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex-Morgan County

-- Roane County-Emory Gap Cemetery

-- New Salem Baptist Church-Sevier County

-- J. Will Taylor House-Union County

And here are details about the 14 sites; the text for these site descriptions was provided by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance:

Central Business District of Lenoir City - Loudon County

Contact: Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire, 986-2715 or

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. The City has already laid the groundwork with for a successful downtown with beautification projects, but with the recent downturn in the economy, many storefronts are empty and businesses are closing their doors.

Alexander Inn - Anderson County

Contact person: Kate Groover, executive director of ORRE, 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 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, raise $4,000 for and helped continue to 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. 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, 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, Va., 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 will be hosting a volunteer work day at Martin Mansion during Preservation Month in May with the Blount County Historical Trust. 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

The construction on the 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 U.S. Postal Service 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 is presently on the market with Sam Tate of NAI Realtors in Knoxville and is listed at $435,000, well below the appraised value.

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 as a library or the Campbell County Historical Society. Regardless of the buyer, ETPA will work with the USPS and the Tennessee Historical Commission to place covenants on the exterior of the building.

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. ETPA will work with the Claiborne County government, 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 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 fa<0x00E7>ade.

The National Register-listed house needs attention before it loses any more of its unique architectural details and ETPA encourages the property owners to maintain the house.

Abandoned rural schoolhouses - Grainger County

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.

-- Dotson School

A new buyer recently purchased the property but has no plans for the schoolhouse. The building has been used as hay storage and other agricultural uses since closing as a school. It is still in solid shape and could easily be restored as a residence or office. Federal reinvestment tax credits could be used to rehabilitate the school and update it.

-- Dutch Valley School

This school was converted to a residence and people lived in it for several years, but it is now abandoned.

-- Bellevue School - Mackey Road at Powder Springs

One-room schoolhouse that served the immediate community for many, many years.

-- Lays School - Tater Valley

ETPA recognizes that each of these schools present unique challenges and each school 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.

Morristown College - Hamblen County

Contacts: Mayor Sami Beale, 423-581-0100, or Todd Morgan, Morristown's Community Development Corp., 423-581-0100

The Morristown College campus sits on a picturesque hill close to downtown Morristown 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.

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 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

Contact: Harvey Young, president of Jefferson County Tomorrow, 789-2511 or

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 East Tennessee. In New Market, 280 acres of historic farmland known as Quaker Valley is 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 that would preserve the rural farmland in New Market and limit the negative environmental impact on a prime agricultural land.

Boyhood home of Estes Kefauver - Monroe County

Contact: Monroe County Mayor Allan Watson, 423-442-3981; Monroe County Historian Jo Stakely, 423-420-0910; property owner, Nancy Haun, 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. Sen. 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 Sen. 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.

ETPA encourages 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. The Estes Kefauver legacy is endangered of being forgotten and his boyhood home is a vivid reminder of his fading memory.

Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex - Morgan County

Contact: Morgan County Mayor Becky Ruppe, 423-346-6288

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 nine thousand 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 20 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.

Emory Gap Cemetery - Roane County

Off U.S. 27 (State Route 61) about one mile north of Exit 357 on Interstate 40 sits the Emory Gap Cemetery. Bordered by two fast food establishments and new residential developments, Emory Gap Cemetery typifies cemetery preservation issues across the region. Started in the 1870s as a church or community cemetery, Emory Gap Cemetery suffers from vandalism, neglect, and encroaching commercial and residential development. ETPA has established a Cemetery Task Force to help address these and other cemetery preservation concerns in the region.

Today the cemetery is covered with heavy undergrowth and trees and is eroding due to the new development and inadequate retaining walls. The cemetery is literally a dumping ground for yard waste and debris. Many of the monuments have fallen over or have been broken by falling trees and limbs. A few tombstones are no longer legible and others have disappeared. As with many small rural cemeteries, the families represented in the cemetery are no longer members of the community and as a result there are no caretakers.

ETPA encourages awareness of the cemetery and limited development that is encroaching on the cemetery. 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 hope the community can help clean up the cemetery.

New Salem Baptist Church - Sevier County

The New Salem Baptist Church was built in 1886 by Isaac Dockery, 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 served for 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

Contact: Bonnie Peters, Union County Historian and ETPA board member, 865-687-3842 or

The circa 1880 home of 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 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.