Remnants of Morristown College site endangered
The husk of the Laura Yard Hill Administration Building, which burned on Oct. 28, 2010, is one of two major buildings on the former Morristown College site to be destroyed in fire. The site continues to be listed among the most endangered historic properties in East Tennessee.
Six Lakeway Area historical sites made the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance 2013 East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage list of endangered historic buildings and places in the sixteen-county region. The list was announced Monday at the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.
Listed from the Lakeway Area included Rural Mount in Hamblen County, Morristown College in Morristown, The Tanner Cultural Center in Newport, Abandoned Rural Schoolhouses in Grainger County, Historic Dandridge School in Dandridge and Quaker Valley in New Market.
Rural Mount was likely built in 1799 by Alexander Outlaw as a wedding gift for his daughter, Penelope, and her new husband, Joseph Hamilton. Hamilton was the first clerk of Jefferson County and one of the original trustees of Greenville College, the first state school.
The house is one of a handful of surviving eighteenth century stone houses in East Tennessee. The house was listed in 1975 on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house has been empty for about 30 years and sits in an active pasture. In June 2011, ETPA and the property owner hosted 200 people for an open house at Rural Mount to continue raising awareness.
The National Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church founded Morristown College in 1881. It was originally called Morristown Normal and Industrial College before the name changed to Morristown College and later Knoxville College-Morristown Campus.
The original building was constructed on the site of a former slave market and built using hand-pressed bricks made on site. Following the Civil War, it became a secondary school at which freed men were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. At the height of its enrollment, the school occupied 12 buildings and encompassed 375 acres.
The entire campus is now vacant. The property stands at 51 acres, and seven of its nine buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In September 2008, a fire engulfed the historic Cafeteria building, and in December 2010, a massive fire destroyed the most prominent building, the Laura Yard Hill Administration Building.
The Newport Consolidated School, later called the Tanner School, was built in 1924 with financial support from the Julius Rosenwald Fund for African American schools. The building was used by community organizations as well as outreach programs until tornados hit Cocke County causing damage to the roof in April 2011. Due to the hazardous nature of the mold, the organizations were asked to move out of the building and its future became uncertain.
In Grainger County, several abandoned rural schoolhouses are still standing including the Dotson School and Dutch Valley School, both of which are currently vacant.
The historic Dandridge School sits on a hill that overlooks the town of Dandridge and Douglas Lake. The building was designed by noted architect, Barber McMurry, and was built in 1927.
The school building was sold by Jefferson County at an auction more than 10 years ago to a private individual. Most of the building remains empty.
In New Market, 280 acres of historic farmland known as Quaker Valley is in the crosshairs of developers. The land continues to be the center of controversy as residents in Jefferson County try to prevent a proposed development by Norfolk Southern Railway that includes the farmland.
The list is the fourth list of endangered historic places selected by the ETPA Board of Directors from nominations received from members and the general public. Preservation strategies are developed for each site on the list and can include working with current property owners, government officials, citizens and potential new owners to preserve these important parts of East Tennessee’s heritage. In some cases, ETPA will organize volunteer workdays to help stabilize and protect sites.
East Tennessee Preservation Alliance partners with community leaders, organizations, and businesses across the region to find preservation solutions for the endangered properties identified for the annual list and encourage the communities across the region to join in efforts to save our endangered heritage.
Others to make the 2013 East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage list include: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Former Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater, Stonecipher-Kelly House in Morgan County, Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge, Old Post Office in LaFollette, 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, New Salem Baptist Church in Sevierville and Oak Grove School in Sharps Chapel.
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, call 865-523-8008.
-From Staff Reports