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Editorial: Historic places help us understand our culture

Editorial Board • Feb 14, 2020 at 9:00 PM

When we tour a historic building, we are drawn to not just its past, but ours as well. We can’t help but think of those who walked those floors or sat in that chair before that fireplace. We think of the children who called it home or the author who wrote some important work in that room, or perhaps, the great history that was made there.

That’s among other reasons why it’s so important to preserve historic buildings. They are crucial to retaining our history and heritage. They reflect change over time and the culture of yesteryear. They provide a link with the past that we can experience, and in so doing, give us a sense of stability and, perhaps, keep us mindful not to repeat mistakes of the past.

And that’s why we enjoy presenting you stories about efforts to preserve important buildings, stories like Mark Hunt’s plans for Kingsport’s historic State Theater, and the four historic restoration projects now underway in Rogersville.

Hunt plans to put a new roof on the State Theater, along with finishing the interior work. His vision is for the theater to be a venue for live musical performances. Kingsport is roughly halfway between Knoxville and Asheville and would be a good stopping-off point for artists traveling through our area, Hunt said. “We’re going to get some live music to start with, but I’m open for just about anything.”

In Rogersville, plans are underway to quitclaim the old rail depot to the city. Last year, Hawkins County opted not to seek available grant funds to pay for needed repairs to the exterior, after which the city agreed to take ownership so it could take over the restoration.

The other three pending Rogersville historic restorations are the St. Marks Presbyterian Church, Rogers Tavern and Powel Law Office.

An independent restoration committee utilized a Rogersville grant to complete repairs last year to the exterior and replace broken stained glass at the 108-year-old church located at the corner of Kyle Street and Hasson Street. In 2015, the church was identified as one of the top-10 endangered historic properties in Tennessee. Now it has been saved.

Earlier this month, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to apply for a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission to begin the first of three phases of restoration for the 1790s building on Washington Street near the Depot Street intersection, originally the law office of Congressman Samuel Powel, 1776-1841.

And the RHA is raising funds to restore the Rogers Tavern to its original 1790s appearance.

A community’s historical places help residents understand their culture and traditions while providing a sense of community, identity and continuity. Those working to preserve these important places deserve our congratulations, thanks and support.

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