East Tennessee Endangered Places
ETPA is now accepting nominations for the 2019 East Tennessee Endangered Places List. If you know of a threatened historic place located in Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Sevier, Scott, or Union Counties, please use the nomination form below. For Knox County, Knox Heritage publishes an annual Fragile and Fading list. More information on that program can be found HERE.
2018 East Tennessee Endangered 8
The 2018 E8 list was announced on Thursday, May 17, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. at Henderson Chapel African American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rutledge, TN.
Each year the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) presents a list of eight endangered heritage sites in the program’s fifteen county region. The goal of the list is to draw attention to these threatened heritage assets and encourage property owners and communities to develop preservation strategies for saving them.
Raising awareness of both the importance of historic preservation and specifically threatened sites is why the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance produces this list annually. It is also why the organization has developed “PLACES, the Preservation Toolbox for East Tennessee”. The Toolbox exists to assist with the process of developing viable solutions for saving our endangered heritage and is available online at www.knoxheritage.org/etpa/toolbox.
The Henderson Chapel African AME Zion Church in Rutledge was first constructed in 1890 from the logs of Grainger County’s first courthouse. It is the oldest African American congregation and church building in the county. The Chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Regular services ended in 2001 and maintenance issues are beginning to mount. There is concern that the site might be a candidate for redevelopment and the building would be lost.
ETPA encourages the community to work with the Grainger County Historic Society to raise awareness of this important historic site, find funding for repairs, and develop a plan for how the Chapel can become an active part of Rutledge’s heritage assets.
The Bowman House, originally located on the Little Tennessee River and now on Tellico Lake, was built in 1828 by George Bowman, a German immigrant. Mr. Bowman is thought to be the first white man to build among the Indians. The Federal style home is typical of Tennessee country homes of that era and features a limestone base quarried from Morganton, brick made on site, and beautiful curved-brick corbeling under the eaves. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a featured property in Loudon County history books.
In 2017, this property was listed for sale and ETPA encouraged a preservation-minded buyer to purchase the property and follow the Secretary of Interior Standards for restoration and renovation. There has been no change in its ownership status to date.
Davis Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Claiborne County
The Davis Creek Primitive Baptist Church has been holding services since 1797. It is believed to be the oldest Primitive Baptist Church still holding services in Tennessee. Located in the Speedwell community, the current church building dates to 1880. The structure has been facing much needed repairs and would like to apply for National Register designation. To qualify, certain items will need to be addressed such as removing the front foyer addition which covers the original two entry doors, one for men and one for women.
In 2017, ETPA strongly encouraged community support for this project. Since that time, the congregation has made some repairs such as installing a new roof, guttering, and connecting to city water. Regular services are occurring in the church, but the congregation has dwindled to less than ten regularly attending members.
The Blaine area is home to three properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, all located within a 1.2 mile stretch along Highway 11-W. Richland was built by built by Revolutionary War veteran Captain Thomas Jarnagin on land recognized as the first recorded deed in the newly formed Grainger County. Captain Jarnagin then gave Richland as a wedding gift to Major and Lavinia Jarnagin Lea in 1796. The home would later be the birthplace of Albert Miller Lea who achieved fame as an engineer, soldier, and topographer of national significance. Nearby Poplar Hill, also known as the Cynthia Lea House, is a rare example in East Tennessee of the Gothic Revival style built in 1830. Furthest west is Shield’s Station, established around 1790 and operated by Dr. Samuel Shields as a stagecoach stop, tavern, store, medical dispensary, and post office from 1830 until the 1860s. It is a rare example in East Tennessee of the New England Saltbox post and beam structure.
While the individual properties are currently well-maintained, the Grainger County Historic Society and ETPA are concerned about recent blasting at a quarry operation within this 1.2 mile area of historic buildings. Standards for vibration limits to protect historic buildings vary and can be influenced by soil and structural conditions. It is this lack of definitive information that can be problematic for historic structures. In 2018, the c. 1974 Noah Jarnagin Cabin was nominated to be included with the Blaine properties. Located about six miles further east, the cabin, also known as the Joppa Inn, is located across the street from another proposed limestone quarry. ETPA is seeking to encourage local conversations about how to carefully monitor the conditions of these historic structures as commercial activities intensify within close proximity.
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 Gothic-revival 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 New Salem Renovation Task Force has been spearheading the preservation and fundraising efforts over the past few years and is achieving some success. The new goal is to raise $250,000 to finish repairs. The building still suffers from ventilation issues, which are compromising the structure. It also sits in a floodplain and the main level needs to be raised. The annual Isaac Dockery Day fundraiser will be held on May 19 in Sevierville. More information can be found online at www.isaacdockery.org. A major gospel music event fundraiser is being planned for September. ETPA invites the community to support the Task Force’s ongoing fundraising for this project.
Former Tennessee Military Institute – Sweetwater, Monroe County
Sweetwater Military College was established in 1874 and was later named Tennessee Military Institute in 1902. The 144-acre campus includes ten buildings, with the main and most iconic building dating back to 1909. The campus and the educational activities that have occurred there have always been a major part of the Sweetwater Community. During WW II, TMI was where commissioned officers were found and it became one of the best-known schools in the world with students from all states and several foreign countries. In 1988 TMI closed and was sold to Meiji Gakuin University which operated a Japanese high school called Tennessee Meiji Gakuin (TMG). The high school was first of its kind in the U.S. and served Japanese students whose parents and guardians were living in America.
In 2007, the school was permanently closed. After the closing, the property suffered from ownership battles. That dispute has been settled, but there are roof and other stabilization issues that need to be addressed as well as the development of a long-term vision for its redevelopment. Time is of the essence for this important historic site and ETPA is hopeful a solution can be found very soon for moving forward with renovation and restoration.
Stonecipher-Kelly House – Morgan County (near Wartburg)
The Stonecipher-Kelly House was built around 1814 by the first permanent white settlers in that area, as part of a Revolutionary War land-grant. Around 1807-1808, Joseph Marion Stonecipher and his sons, along with the Samuel Hall family, were the first permanent white settlers in the wilderness area that is now called Morgan County. The Stoneciphers settled various tracts of a Revolutionary War land-grant in the beautiful Emory River valley and its tributaries. In 1814, Ezra B. Stonecipher, one of Joseph’s sons, constructed an unusually large, two-story log home with an additional third-level loft on a portion of the land-grant adjacent to an area known today as Frozen Head State Park. The saddlebag style is unusual for the region, and the house retains most of its original, character-defining, architectural features. In December 2012, the estate put the house and 30 acres up for auction. Barbara Stagg, then ETPA board member and longtime Morgan County resident, worked with descendants of the McCartt family and local preservationists to organize a group of buyers for the property with the intention of later transferring it to a public or non-profit entity. In February 2013, the house and property was presented to the State Land Acquisition Commission for review as a potential addition to the Frozen Head State Park and was accepted.
Since that time, a volunteer crew has rebuilt the dry stack stone retention wall between the house and the old road, Frozen Head State Park staff has been working to build a gravel parking lot just east of Kelly Creek, and the interior of the house has been photo-inventoried. All of the asbestos siding has been removed. The Frozen Head State Park Business and Management Plan has set renovation as a priority. Friends of Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area has working to restore the house and grounds as one of its six objectives. Donations to the 501(c) 3 Friends organization may be directed to the Stonecipher-Kelly House. The second annual Stonecipher Kelly Day will be held Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at the property.
Abandoned Rural Schoolhouses (brought back for 2018)
In most rural areas, small one-room or two-room schoolhouses were built to serve the immediate community. As communities and education evolved, larger school buildings were erected to accommodate more students and more grade levels. No longer in use, many small rural schools were neglected and left to deteriorate. While property owners and local historians know the locations of these schools, many in the public are unaware. In July of 2017 local news coverage brought attention to Pleasant Grove School in Jefferson County. It was “found” again after being concealed by vegetation. Not all of these former school are concealed. Some, like the Island View School in Sevier County, remain standing in an open field on private property, serving as a reminder of the past for former students, their descendants, and all who travel by on Boyds Creek Highway. Like many schools from this era, the children walked to the schoolhouse and had fond memories of the education and experience they had.
ETPA recognizes that each of these rural schools presents unique challenges in terms of preservation. While little background information is available for some of these rural schools, ETPA hopes to change that by developing an inventory of rural one- and two-room schools in our 16-county region. By knowing which schools remain and the threats they face, we can better promote their reuse and rehabilitation.
Update on 2017 Endangered 8
Two properties were removed from the Endangered 8 list during 2017. One is the Old Jefferson City Hall which was built in 1868 by John Roper Branner, one of Jefferson City’s most influential citizens, about the same time as his nearby home known as the Historic Glenmore Mansion. Much of the building had sat empty for a number of years, but a new owner has developed a plan to save the building and its future is much brighter. The second property is the c. 1893 Oliver Springs Southern Railroad Depot. In 2017, Senator Ken Yager received and East Tennessee Preservation Award for advocating for financial appropriations for the restoration of the Oliver Springs Depot. Since then, lead paint has been removed, the original dormers reconstructed, and a new roof installed. ETPA encourages local preservationists to work with their legislators on funding for preservation projects.
Past Endangered Places Lists
Please note that past Endangered 8 and Endangered Heritage lists change as conditions change. Some properties are no longer listed due to being “officially” saved, such as the Alexander Inn/Guest House in Oak Ridge. Significant progress may also have been made to improve conditions, which is the current case for Brushy Mountain in Morgan County, the Oak Grove School in Union County and the old Post Office in LaFolette.
2017 East Tennessee Endangered 8 – Press Release ; Watch the video
2016 East Tennessee Endangered 8 – Press Release (PDF) ; 2016 Endangered 8 Presentation (PDF)
2015 East TN Endangered 8 Press Release
2014 East TN Endangered Heritage Press Release
2013 East TN Endangered Heritage Press Release
2012 East TN Endangered Heritage Booklet
2011 East TN Endangered Heritage Press Release
2010 East TN Endangered Heritage List
No Longer Endangered
These formerly endangered places are now considered saved or in good standing at the moment:
- The Alexander Inn, Oak Ridge (Anderson County) – Saved and now being used as a senior living facility, it is protected with a preservation easement.
- Oak Grove School, Sharp’s Chapel (Union County) – Saved and renovated by the local community.
- Downtown Dandridge (Jefferson County) – No longer considered in immediate danger with recent decisions to keep the courthouse and board of education downtown and other investments in properties and heritage events.
- Old Lafollette Post Office (Campbell County) – Currently being used as a community art center.
- Downtown Lenoir City (Loudon County) – Investments in buildings, streetscape upgrades, and a park are occurring.
- The Old Jefferson City Hall (Jefferson County) has a new owner who has developed a plan to save the building.
- The Oliver Springs Southern Railroad Depot received a grant thanks to Senator Ken Yager. Since then, lead paint has been removed, the original dormers reconstructed, and a new roof installed.
These formerly endangered places are now considered officially lost.
- Morristown College (Hamblen County) – Demolished in 2016 to make way for a new city park.
- Magnet Mills in Clinton (Anderson County) – Neglect and fire led to the demolition of most buildings in 2017.