East Tennessee Endangered Places
2020 East Tennessee Endangered Places
Each year the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) presents a list of endangered heritage sites in the program’s fifteen county region around Knoxville. The list is intended to remind property owners, community leaders, and the public about how quickly important places can fade away due to neglect and the lack of a realistic plan for their preservation. Saving these historic places will conserve resources, maintain beautiful architecture, sustain the local economy, create jobs, grow heritage tourism, stabilize neighborhoods, and keep the community connected with its shared history.
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. ETPA also issues regional preservation awards, promotes an annual preservation conference, and assists with preservation technical issues.
This year’s list revisits places featured on the 2019 list while adding a new site in Monroe County. ETPA encourages these local communities to stay updated on their conditions and to openly discuss plans for building forward momentum.
Boyhood Home of Estes Kefauver – Madisonville, Monroe County (New)
This grand home was built in 1846 by New York native Thomas Blanchard. Around 1912, the family of future U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver moved into the home and he was raised there. Kefauver, a member of the Democratic Party, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1939 to 1949 and in the U.S. Senate from 1949 until his death in 1963. He served as the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1956 under Adlai Stevenson and chaired the 1951 hearings on organized crime, the first Senate hearings to be nationally televised. Kefauver was named chair of the U.S. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee in 1957 and served as its chairman until his death. A devastating fire ravaged the house in January 2006 and the owner, a descendant of Senator Kefauver, had intended to restore the property, but efforts over the last 14 years have stalled and the iconic property continues to remain vacant and damaged. Local codes officials and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen are currently working with the property owner on a timeline and plan to address the current code violations associated with the property. ETPA urges the property owner to restore, sell, or donate the house to a preservation-minded entity to ensure the architecturally and historically significant house isn’t lost and can become an asset to the community. The Estes Kefauver legacy is at risk of being forgotten and his boyhood home is a vivid reminder of his fading memory.
American Temperance University Memorial Building – Harriman, Roane County
Completed in 1891, the American Temperance University Memorial Building in Harriman was originally constructed to house the offices of the East Tennessee Land Company which founded the City of Harriman. The building was designed by Townsend and Stone Architects and was referred to as “the finest private office building in the state” with its brick and stone exterior, four Norman towers, and interior oak finishings with a grand central stair. In 1893, the building became Greenlee Hall for the American Temperance University and housed classrooms and a library. The City of Harriman purchased the property in 1914 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It has served as a city hall, museum, and various offices and has become an important architectural symbol for Harriman. The aging structure has experienced flooding due to a pipe break, structural settling, and masonry deterioration. The City has taken a shotgun approach to repairs over the years but would like to do much more and has a preservation plan in place. ETPA is still encouraging the creation of a local non-profit organization that can take the lead on raising funds and developing a plan for repurposing the structure.
Tennessee Railroad Depot – Oneida, Scott County
The Tennessee Railroad Depot in Oneida is a reminder of the time when Oneida was booming with timber and coal being transported from the region. This depot is the last one standing with three others already lost. In fact, it is the last depot remaining in all of Scott County. The Town of Oneida owns the property but it has been neglected for several years and is currently being used for storage. ETPA encourages the Town of Oneida to work with local organizations on developing a viable plan to restore and repurpose the last train depot in the county.
Hogskin Creek Bridge, Grainger County
Also known as the Black Fox Road Bridge, this single-span metal truss bridge near Washburn has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2009. Similar “Pratt Camelback” truss bridges are recognized under Criterion C as historically significant in other locations. Originally built in 1917 as the State Highway 33 bridge across the Clinch River, it was relocated to this site in 1935 when Norris Lake was created. The old bridge is slowly decaying with rusting steel and deteriorating wood decking. Despite safety issues, it continues to be a popular gathering place for locals. Supposedly, the bridge is haunted and legends of deaths, murders, and suicides are part of local lore. The residents of Washburn were once proud of this new bridge and they could be again. Similar bridges have become popular social and outdoor destinations and local leaders should explore options on repairing and utilizing the bridge to add to the area’s recreation options.
Bowman House, Loudon County
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 continues to encourage a preservation-minded buyer purchase the property and follow the Secretary of Interior Standards for restoration and renovation. The site is large enough for new construction so the Bowman House could be used as a guest house or incorporated into a larger residential compound.
New Salem Baptist Church – Sevierville, 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 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 continues to achieve success. 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 the 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 creation 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. Funds have been allocated for the restoration of the house and the project is currently in the design phase. 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 been 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.
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.
2018 East Tennessee Endangered 8 – Press Release
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.