Rogersville IPC&L plant sold for $260,000

Jeff Bobo • Apr 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A downtown Rogersville landmark for eight decades, the International Playing Card and Label plant was sold at auction Thursday morning for less than 10 percent of its assessed property value.

The plant is located on approximately 11 acres at 530 W. Main St. just west of the downtown historic district. Its value had been assessed around $2.9 million, but Hawkins County developer Roger Stewart picked it up Thursday with a bid of $260,000, plus a 10 percent buyer’s premium.

Stewart said he plans to raze the plant and develop the property for shopping and restaurants.

The plant hadn’t functioned as a production facility since 2001, and most recently had been held in trust by the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Greeneville.

Greeneville attorney Douglas Payne, who served as trustee for the plant, said the sale wouldn’t be finalized until the paperwork is filed with the court, which will probably take place early next week.

Much of the history of Rogersville dating back to the late 1700s centers around printing. Hawkins County arguably became the national epicenter of printing in the first half of the 20th century with the opening of the Hawkins County International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union (IPPAU) in 1911.

By the mid-1920s no playing cards and very few labels were being printed by union pressmen, which is why IPPAU President George Berry conceived the creation of the IPC&L plant in Rogersville.

According to historical documents on file at the Rogersville Depot Printing Museum, IPC&L was constructed and opened in 1929 “to offer competition to non-union playing card and label manufacturers, and to organize their employees.”

One of the oddities about the four-story plant — and one that earned it a place in the Guinness Book of Records — was that by being built on a bluff, each of its four stories opened onto ground level.

By 1952, the plant had become an independent corporation, focusing mainly on food labels including Chef Boyardee. As the century came to a close, the company’s biggest clients were tobacco companies.

In the late 1990s, IPC&L opened a modern production facility at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park, followed closely by the closing of the original Rogersville plant in 2001.

The Phipps Bend IPC&L plant was sold to Mundet International in 2006.

When bidding began for the Rogersville plant Thursday, the auctioneer initially asked for $1 million. With no takers he dropped it to $500,000, and again there were no takers. He didn’t receive his first bid until asking for $200,000.

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