Arrowmont, New Salem on endangered list

Mar. 07, 2013 @ 10:08 AM

Two places in Sevier County have made the 2013 East Tennessee Preservation Alliance’s Endangered Heritage list of historic buildings and places in its 16-county region.

The list includes:

- Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg

- New Salem Baptist Church in Sevierville

This marks the fourth list of endangered historic places selected by the ETPA Board of Directors from nominations received. Preservation strategies are developed for each site on the list.

East Tennessee Preservation Alliance partners with community leaders, organizations, and businesses across the region to find preservation solutions for the endangered properties.

The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance works to protect places and structures with historic or cultural significance in Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties. It is governed by a board of directors with representatives from across the region. ETPA carries out its mission through a variety of programs and encourages community support through education and advocacy. To get involved with ETPA’s advocacy efforts, please call 865-523-8008.

The Arrowmont School of Arts in Crafts is nestled in Gatlinburg. Its legacy dates back to 1912 when the Pi Beta Phi women’s fraternity established a nearby settlement school. The settlement school curriculum focused mostly on traditional education courses, but quickly expanded to include mountain handicrafts to help preserve the artisan legacy of the residents and to provide a source of revenue for locals. By 1943, Sevier County assumed control of the settlement school and launched the summer crafts workshop program in 1945. The summer program grew in popularity and continues today by offering over 130 classes in contemporary arts and crafts.

The Arrowmont campus includes two National Register Historic districts, which are the only such designated districts in Gatlinburg. The significant buildings include houses designed by Barber McMurry Architects, a chicken coop, and a barn.

Pi Beta Phi owns all of the historic buildings and Arrowmont owns the buildings erected after 1991. Pi Beta Phi leases the property to Arrowmont for $1 per year through 2015.

In 2008, Pi Beta Phi announced its intentions to sell the property to a developer who planned to demolish the historic campus to make way for a hotel and water park. Luckily, those plans were averted and Arrowmont was given an extended lease.

Then in 2010, Arrowmont announced plans to remain in Gatlinburg and laid the groundwork to negotiate the acquisition of the property. Because of their decision to remain in Gatlinburg, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance presented the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts with a preservation award in 2011. Their decision to stay on the historic campus ensures the preservation of the buildings and the cultural landscape.

Unfortunately, the long term plans to remain in Gatlinburg are now in question.  In December 2012, Pi Beta Phi announced that a deal had been struck to purchase the property for an undisclosed amount.  The buyers are in their due diligence period and have been communicating with local stakeholders as they hope to find a workable design solution for everyone

ETPA urges the potential buyers and Pi Beta Phi to continue to work with Arrowmont to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement that preserves the historic buildings and the legacy of the fraternity’s commitment to Gatlinburg.

The New Salem Baptist Church was built in 1886 by Isaac Dockery, noted African American builder, and is Sevierville’s oldest surviving building, Sevier County’s oldest brick church building, and the only historic black church in the county. The church served the black community until the 1950s when the last services were held by the original congregation.

Since that time, the church has been used by other congregations and denominations, and the historic integrity has slowly been chipped away. The original bell tower and pulpit furniture have been removed and the overall interior has been altered significantly.

Even with these changes, the church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and a Tennessee Historical marker was placed on the grounds in 2006. The building suffers from lack of maintenance and ventilation issues, which are compromising the structure.

Today the church and grounds are used for the annual Dockery family reunion, which draws hundreds of descendants to the church and grounds. The Dockery Family Association has been working with the East Tennessee Community Design Center, the African American Heritage Alliance, and ETPA to find a preservation solution for the building.

A task force was established in summer 2011 and meets regularly to strategize solutions for the landmark building. The group hosted fundraisers and events to help towards the stabilization efforts of the New Salem Baptist Church and has worked with a local architect to complete drawings for the building.

Other structure son the list:

Former Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater

Stonecipher-Kelly-McCartt House in Morgan County

Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge

Old Post Office in LaFollette

The Tanner Cultural Center in Newport

Abandoned Rural Schoolhouses in Grainger County

Rural Mount in Hamblen County

Morristown College in Morristown

Historic Dandridge School in Dandridge

Quaker Valley in New Market

Central Business District of Lenoir City

Old Monroe Health Department/Legion Hall in Madisonville

Brushy Mountain State Correctional Complex in Morgan County

Neglected Cemeteries across Entire Region

Oak Grove School in Sharps Chapel