Tennessee's Historic Stone Walls (Statewide)
Stone walls, whether dry-laid or mortared, are considered by many to be the “signature” that helps define TN’s historic landscapes. As contributors to the aesthetic, scenic, and historic value of TN, they are associated with properties, sites, buildings, and roadways. Over time, however, these walls have been threatened by state and locally funded road widening projects, automobile accidents, changes in land-use patterns, and natural forces. Important new legislation now gives protection to stone walls, making their destruction without owner consent illegal. Yet the threat continues. In some cases, the lack of public awareness of their unique value perpetuates their lack of maintenance. And occasionally, walls are robbed of their stones to be used elsewhere, which furthers the deterioration of these valuable resources.
Original Threat: Private development and lack of awareness
UPDATE: Although numerous stone walls were damaged by the historic flooding across Middle Tennessee in 2010, local stone wall conservation groups have formed, and the Dry Stone Conservancy in Kentucky has worked for years to provide certified training for craftsman level repairs. Extensive repairs are underway after the floods with the historic Belle Meade Plantation leading the way with repairs to over a mile of their historic fencing, some of which intersects the historic Natchez Trace.
J. Allen Smith House (Knox County)
The J. Allen House was designed by Charles I. Barber for James Allen Smith, the founder and owner of the White Lily Flour Company, in 1916. The Mediterranean Revival-style home’s size and appointments – such as marble floored entry, rare wood paneling in the dining room, entry and music room, and an elaborate iron stair rail – reflect Knoxville’s prosperity in the early 10th century. The Smith home is the most visible, scenic, and impressive of Charles Barber’s surviving domestic structures.
Original Threat: Demolition. In 1999, the Board of Directors of Cherokee Country Club acquired the Smith House/Coughlin property with the intent to demolish the home and put in additional parking for the golf course. The outrage of neighbors, community groups, historic preservationists, and many Club members stalled the home’s immediate destruction. Preservationists across the state were drawn into the struggle between Cherokee Country Club and Knoxville preservationists when the club initiated an amendment in the state legislature that would allow them to demolish the house —despite the efforts of the City of Knoxville. The amendment passed in the Senate and would have weakened preservation efforts across the state had it made it through the House. Preservation advocates across the state rallied together with the TN Municipal League to oppose the amendment. They succeeded in having it withdrawn from the legislative calendar for the session.
LOST: Demolished in 2004
Gager Lime Manufacturing Company (Franklin County)
Constructed in the late 1880s or early 1890s, the concrete buildings of the Gager Lime Manufacturing Company are significant among industrial complexes for their highly styled architectural elements. Unlike most late 19th century industrial sites, which typically exhibit little or no reference to contemporary architectural styles, the Gager Lime Manufacturing Company is unique – displaying elements of the Egyptian Revival and Gothic Revival styles. Crennelated parapet walls ornament several storage silos, making the complex appear castle-like. Other building feature stylized “papyriform” buildings on the abandoned property represent the architectural elan of plant engineer George Kinney, who received no formal design training. The continued lack of maintenance threatens the site and will likely lead to further deterioration – whether intentional or accidental – of the remaining buildings.
Original Threat: Neglect
Drane-Foust House (Montgomery County)
Located at a gateway to Austin Peay State University, this National Register-listed property is significant as an excellent example of a transitional Queen Anne-Colonial Revival dwelling, and is associated with two prominent Clarksville families. At the behest of local preservationists, and in recognition of the importance of the property, the THC funded a grant in the late 1990s that replaced the roof and installed a new gutter system.
Original Threat: Demolition. When listed, the boarded up house stood adjacent to a new multi-million dollar campus housing project nearing completion, a project that could have included the restoration of the Drane-Foust House. Instead, some within the current university administration sought to have the building demolished. Demolition was prevented only by the covenants placed on the property when the restoration grant was accepted, a restriction that expire after several years. It was hoped that the University would find a use for the house and commit to its restoration—or sell the property to new stewards committed to its preservation.
LOST: Austin-Peay University applied for removal of the National Register status of the property in preparations to demolish the structure, even after having in the past received a Tennessee Historical Commission grant to preserve the building. This was classic “demolition by neglect” by an institution with vast resources and extensive encouragement and support of the preservation community. This is an unfortunate example of bureaucratic and institutional neglect. The building was torn down and is now a parking lot.
Alexander Inn (Anderson County)
The Alexander Inn, historically known as the Guest House when it was constructed in 1943, provided lodging to visitors of the Clinton Engineering Works (Oak Ridge) during the time of the Manhattan Project. Listed on the National Register, the Alexander Inn maintains a high degree of visibility in the Oak Ridge Historic District and is recognized as the crown jewel of the District. The district, as well as the Inn, possess national significance for association with the Manhattan Project, development of atomic energy, and the use of innovative planning concepts and materials to build a secret city for 75,000 people during WWII.
Original Threat: Demolition by neglect
UPDATE: The Department of Energy drafted an agreement on the K-25 Building in Oak Ridge in June 2012. Under the agreement, all of K-25 would be demolished and a replica equipment building would be built in its place, as would a history center and a virtual museum. This agreement came after nearly 10 years of discussions.
TPT listed K-25 in 2010 in the midst of those ongoing discussions and as parts of the mile-long, U-shaped building were being torn down. The K-25 site was built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, but shut down in 1987. Local preservation groups, in conjunction with the Tennessee Historical Commission and National Trust for Historic Preservation, lobbied for years to keep the North Tower.
The draft agreement, in an attempt to mitigate the demolition of k-25, included a grant from the Department of Energy to the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance to buy and stabilize the historic Alexander Inn.
The Historic Mills of Washington County (Washington County)
Farming communities in East TN relied heavily on local mills as they developed during the 18th and 19th centuries. Located along the creeks in the region, Washington County’s mills are threatened by road projects – as well as commercial and residential development and neglect. The Knob Creek community’s circa 1840s Bashor Mill is the only remaining mill in this community where there had once been seven mills. It is currently threatened by commercial development in the area, and is in need of substantial continuous operation. It is now threatened by TDOT’s right-of-way improvements that would make access to the facility more difficult for customers. The Flourville Mill in the Flourville community was constructed from 1890-1894. Recently, residential development in the area has encroached on the structure. Together the county’s mills make up a wonderful collection of resources that could be included in a regional tourism initiative. Groups like Boone’s Creek Historical Trust are working to focus attention on these special places while the opportunity to save them yet remains.
Original Threat: Demolition, neglect, and highway encroachment
The Chisca Hotel (Shelby County)
The Chisca Hotel, built in 1913, is included in the South Main Main St. National Historic District. It is one of the last grand Hotels built in the downtown area in the early 20th century and serves as the Gateway to the South Main District. It was the location of Dewey Phillips radio show “Red Hot and Blues”. This is where Elvis Presley’s first record was played on air in 1954.
Original Threat: The grand Hotel is under threat from development. The owners at time of listing wanted to demolish it to build a new hotel.
UPDATE: In June 2012, our friends at Memphis Heritage sent out an alert to protect this local landmark. A petition was submitted to City Council, which turned around and set aside $2 million in the capital improvement program budget as part of the proposed $20 million project to convert the old hotel into apartments. After working for years to begin redevelopment, Memphis Heritage joins with the Downtown Memphis Commission and the “best redevelopment plan to come along for the Chisca is underway.”
Most recently, the hotel served as the headquarters for the Church of God in Christ. They finally agreed to sell to a developer in 2011 after the Downtown Memphis Commission put pressure on property owners to clean up decaying and unsightly buildings and lots.
The Commercial Appeal
St. Paul AME Church (Maury County)
While the present building dates to 1922, African American Methodist Episcopal Church members have been meeting at this site since 1870, when the first church was constructed. The stately brick gable front church – with its distinctive towers of differing sizes – remains in good structural condition. But the continued and steady deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood means an unsure future as the congregation moves into its 3rd century of worship. Abandoned cars, and dilapidated housing can be seen in the immediate proximity of the church, and it is hoped that the listing will promote community-led revitalization efforts to clean up and enhance the surroundings.
Original Threat: Neighborhood deterioration
Trotter-McMahan Farm (Sevier County)
Long a favorite subject of artists seeking to paint a “picture-perfect” TN farm, the Trotter-McMahan property has been identified by scholars of architectural and agricultural history as one of the most important remaining historic agricultural landscapes in the state. Located in a community known as Middle Creek, the property has been owned by the same family for over 200 years—a record itself that is quite extraordinary. Several of the buildings that comprise the NR listed farm would be considered landmarks in their own right — including the oldest documented cantilever barn in the country (a portion of which may date to the 18th century). The handsome, 2 story Greek Revival dwelling built by Dr. William H. Trotter in 1848 forms the centerpiece of the ensemble.
Original Threat: Sprawl and road encroachment. In 2002, the construction of a 6 lane highway connecting Sevierville with Pigeon Forge began – an act that in effect split the farm in two and will bring unprecedented developmental pressures to the entire area. The family hoped to maintain the farmstead’s core buildings and insulate them as much as possible from nearby suburban and tourism-related development. At present, the Trotter-McMahan property remains the last intact farm of its size in this rapidly urbanizing area.
In 2009, the Trotter-McMahan Farm was officially listed as a TN Century Farm.
Native American Archaeological Sites of Hamilton County (Hamilton County)
More than 12,000 years of human habitation have left Chattanooga and Hamilton County with a rich Native American heritage. The area’s abundant prehistoric and historic archeological sites are primarily concentrated along the TN River and its tributaries, and represent some of the most comprehensive archeological resources in the US.
Original Threat: Private development and erosion. Considerable interest had already been placed on the integration of the National Historic Landmark listed Moccasin Bend into the National Park Service system. Nevertheless, many other archeological sites in the metropolitan area were not included in any preservation plans. Ultimately, sites in and along the river, such as the NR-listed Williams Island, Dallas Island, and MacClellan Island, are threatened by gradual erosion. Archeological sites along the banks of the river, nearly all of which have been disturbed by modern development, still have the potential to yield important information about historic and prehistoric cultures. For example, construction of a waterfront restaurant uncovered burial remains near the site of the Mississippian period Citico burial mound—destroyed in the early 20th century. Native American sites are endangered when private developers undertake projects without fully assessing and analyzing a property’s archeological potential. Education initiatives, public-private partnerships, and coordinated efforts at identifying and documenting additional archeological sites throughout metropolitan Chattanooga would initiate the process of preserving Hamilton County’s Native American archeological sites and heritage.