School board may do title search on old Holston Institute property

Rick Wagner • Feb 7, 2019 at 12:25 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Take a missing deed or deeds plus two old deeds that might be for the same school property but have restrictions, add an interested buyer and what do you have?

And by the way, a Masonic lodge is associated with all this, although unlike the untold, hidden riches in the “National Treasures” movies, school system officials say all that’s stored at the Sullivan County property in question are old textbooks, oak school desks and some filters.

“This is an age-old question that continues to pop up,” Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski told the county school board recently.

It all means enough unanswered questions that the Sullivan County Board of Education may have a title search done on the old Holston Institute, Holston High School or Holston Warehouse property on Muddy Creek Road near Tri-Cities Airport. The board may vote on doing just that at its Thursday, Feb. 7 meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. in the first-floor meeting room of the health and education building in Blountville.

BOE attorney Pat Hull told the school board during a Jan. 31 work session that a business owner is interested in purchasing a plot where a metal building is used to house filters for the school system but not the whole property, which also includes the old gym and the old school building, which are separate. Hull said he has talked with a title search firm that has said a search can be done for $500 or less, possibly as little as $250, even though at least one deed is apparently missing.

The deed restrictions on two apparently overlapping deeds, one from 1885 the other from 1905, say the property from the Crawford family reverts back to the heirs of the original donors if the property ceases being used for education purposes. That would rule out selling the restricted property to a non-education owner, although Hull said a court order could be sought seeking to override the deed restrictions. He said the property might prove popular since it is near Aerospace Park south of the airport.

“I think it is almost certain that property is restricted, which would prevent us from selling it,” Hull said, although BOE Vice Chairman Randall Jones said maybe the system could sell or give it to nearby Northeast State Community College.

“I hate for it to sit there not used,” Jones said, while member Paul Robinson said the community does use recreation league ball fields at the former school site. Rafalowski said a Ruritan Club maintains the fields.

The Masonic lodge connection is that the lodge used to have a meeting place at the school, but Rafalowski said the lodge quit meeting there quite awhile ago.

“We obviously don’t have all the deeds,” Hull said, adding that the two existing deeds seem to show the same property but not in the same configuration. “I don’t know why that is.”

Part of the property once was considered for use as the site for a new county high school, but that facility, since named West Ridge High, is being constructed off Lynn Road off the north side of Exit 63 of Interstate 81. 


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