The last historic building in downtown Kingsport, the 103-year-old former Kingsport Hosiery Mills/Dobyns-Taylor building and adjacent brick structures, certainly merits inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. A huge concrete block addition added in 1956 does not.
The National Register’s standards for evaluating the significance of properties includes among others, such factors as a building’s historical significance, architecture and culture “that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values.”
A featureless concrete block warehouse with no windows built a half-century later than the original complex meets none of that criteria. Rather, it is an eyesore and it is surprising that both the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Kingsport Historic Zoning Commission approved the application for the entire 3.1 acre property with the warehouse included.
Could the Tennessee State Review Board which decides on the application reject it for that reason? If the TSRB approves the nomination, it will be forwarded to the National Park Service, which will make the final decision on the listing.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of America’s historic places worthy of preservation. It’s part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources.
The National Register listing is an honor and does not come with any restrictions as to what can be done to the property by its owners. Nor does it mandate the preservation of the property. But it can lead to a 20% income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings that are determined to be “certified historic structures.” The State Historic Preservation Offices and the National Park Service review any such rehabilitation work to ensure that it complies with standards for rehabilitation.
The brick structures in the complex are certainly historic and demonstrate a period architectural style that merits preservation and would complement downtown if these buildings found a new use. One of the primary owners, George Taylor Jr., of the historic city family of that name, is interested in selling the complex.
“It’s been in our family since 1945 and I’d like to see it preserved and see it developed into something historical and saved for the city,” said Taylor. “We’d be willing to sell it to somebody like that. Anything that’s beneficial to the city and the historical preservation of that building. If it would be saved historically, I’d be willing to sell.”
Among potential uses are turning the brick buildings into apartments and/or retail, but the warehouse offers no other purpose and is incompatible with the historic designation of the complex. It would be to downtown Kingsport’s benefit to remove it.