Rogersville church added to top-10 list of endangered historic properties

Jeff Bobo • Updated Nov 1, 2015 at 10:04 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The St. Marks Presbyterian Church in downtown Rogersville was included Thursday on a list of the ten most endangered historic locations in Tennessee.

The Nashville based Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) promotes, preserves, and protects historic resources across the state through education, advocacy, and collaborative partnerships.

Every year the TPT seeks nominations for its annual “Ten in Tennessee” endangered historic properties list.

More than half of the properties that have made that list since the program began in 2001 have been restored.

Among its inaugural top-10 was Sullivan County’s Deery Inn, which was subsequently restored thanks in part to a $828,454 grant.

Kim Cassidy chairs a committee working to restore the St. Marks Presbyterian Church into a community center.

Cassidy told the Times-News Friday she believes the TPT recognition will improve their chances of acquiring grants and contributions for the project.

“Being included on the Ten in Tenn most endangered list raises awareness across the state of St. Mark’s historic value, and gives credibility to restoring the building,” Cassidy said. “Most importantly it draws much needed attention to the public. This is a community project and we want involvement from anyone in the community who is interested in historic preservation.”

St. Marks was founded in 1875 as the first African American Presbyterian church in Rogersville.

The current building was constructed in 1912 and is located at the corner of Hasson Street and Kyle Street on the campus of the former Swift College, which is now owned by the Hawkins County Board of Education.

The church dissolved in 2002, and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2006.

A previous effort to restore the St. Marks into a community center lost momentum in 2008 when the project’s champion, longtime teacher and school board member Ella Jo Bradley, passed away.

Earlier this year the committee acquired a 99-year-lease for the church from the BOE.

Cassidy is a former student of Bradley. She said the goal is to not only complete Bradley’s vision, but exceed Bradley’s expectations.

“We want it to be a community venue,” Cassidy said. “Mrs. Bradley’s plan was to use it primarily for the arts, and we want to do that as well. But, we don’t want it to be limited to that.”

Cassidy added, “We want people to be able to use it for weddings, meetings, parties, special events — anything people want to use it for. I want it to be a community building. It’s a very beautiful place.”

A museum on the history of the church is also planned, and would be dedicated to Bradley, Cassidy said.

Fundraising is currently underway, and Cassidy intends on filing a grant applications which is due before the end of the year.

The top priorities at this time are installation of a new roof, and wall stabilization. The estimated cost for both projects is about $40,000.

“We are looking forward to beginning the work on the property and seeing it brought back to the beautiful structure it was meant to be,” Cassidy said. “Initial plans include stabilizing the walls with threaded rods with turn-buckles to prevent further bowing of the east and west wood frame structure and repairing or replacing the roof. While much of the work will have to be completed by professionals, there are still many areas that volunteers will be utilized, such as landscaping, cleaning/preserving existing furniture, and planning of the museum.”

Cassidy added, “I’m excited about the fellowship and the results. St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church is a crucial part of our regional history and the building can be a showplace for Hawkins County.”

For more information or to make a donation to the restoration fund call Cassidy at 423-754-2862 or chamber of commerce director Nancy Barker at 423-272-2186.                     

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