Historic Rogersville house to be razed, but you can still salvage the antebellum brick

Jeff Bobo • Jul 28, 2018 at 11:30 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A historic landmark will soon be torn down, but it’s not too late to salvage some of the materials, such as the antebellum brick, for future historic preservation.

On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to award the bid to demolish the Blue Spring House, which dates back almost 200 years, on East Main Street to Kingsport-based Grimm Construction for $23,900.

Brant Grimm told the Times News Friday he expects demolition to begin in three to four weeks on the existing structure, which is believed to have been built around 1843.

Salvage was the city’s first plan

Originally the city sought bids from someone interested in demolishing the structure in exchange for salvaging the materials.

Sometimes when old structures are razed, especially pre-Civil War brick buildings, those materials are salvaged by contractors who perform restorations on other historic structures.

But there were no takers and the city advertised for demolition bids.

Grimm’s was the only company to offer a bid to demolish the house for a fee.

Contractor will save brick and timbers for a price 

Grimm told the Times News Friday that he hadn’t considered the possibility of salvaging the materials, but he will if someone wants to take them.

The exterior walls are three bricks thick, as are the interior partitions, and Grimm said he wouldn’t be surprised if there are a million antebellum bricks in the house.

However, he can’t give them away. It would take extra time and work to clean and stack the brick on pallets.

“We would love to (salvage the brick),” Grimm said. “It’s not our plan to, but I would certainly be willing to. I would much rather see it go to a good need than throw it in a landfill. I’d like to see them used. There’s large timbers in the home as well, so I would be willing to entertain the idea for sure. I’m a contractor and a craftsman, and I absolutely hate for that to go to waste.”

Grimm added, “I would sell them. I would probably clean them and stack them on pallets and have them available to be picked up in pallet quantity.”

Grimm said there are also two large poplar timbers that are fairly long and straight that would probably be valuable as well.

Anyone who would like to talk to Grimm about salvaging the materials can call his office at (423) 963-0116.

The story behind the Blue Spring House

A log cabin that was at the rear of the existing house dated back to 1819. That cabin was torn down a few years ago, leaving a section of the existing structure’s rear attic wall open to the weather.

According to a Hawkins County genealogy study, the Blue Spring House, also known as the Fulkerson House, was built by Rogersville attorney, soldier, banker and state Sen. George Hale, probably not long after he married his second wife in 1843.

Hale, who served as a colonel during the War of 1812, died in 1862 and was buried in the garden.

Rogersville bought the house and 1.5 acre lot for $75,000 in 2016 for use as an expansion of the City Park.

The property had been on the market for nearly a decade prior to that sale and at one time was purchased by a credit union that wanted to build a branch there.

The branch wasn’t built, however, because the Rogersville Historical Commission denied the credit union permission to demolish the old house.

Why not restore the building?

There were attempts in recent years to find a buyer willing to restore the structure.

It was listed for around $150,000 prior to being sold to the city two years ago. In 2015, the cost of renovating the Blue Spring House was estimated at roughly $100,000 by Rogersville Building Inspector Steve Nelson.

But with the house being exposed to the elements for the past three years, Nelson recently told the Times News he didn’t believe it’s now feasible to save the house.

Kingsport Times News Videos