Rogersville’s African-American heritage

March 8, 2008

In the days of segregation, Tennessee’s Black communities had their own school buildings, which along with churches served as centers of community life. While many of these small-town structures fell into disrepair or were torn down after school districts integrated, some survive and have taken on new life as museums that provide a glimpse into all-black eduction.

The most prominent such school in East Tennessee has to be the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton. Rogersville has its museum in the Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum.

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Tate Springs: former resort now another roadside attraction

March 8, 2008

For decades, passersby on Highway 11-W west of the hamlet of Bean Station have zipped past an extravagant bandstand that suggests more elegant times.

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Hale Springs Inn: the walls come tumbling down

February 25, 2008

Rogersville’s Hale Springs Inn, which has served presidents going back as far as Andrew Jackson, is undergoing a renovation project aimed at updating the rooms and putting in a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Inn sits right on the main drag in Rogersville, and is the most impressive building in that town.

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When builders got to an 1870s addition to the historic structure, however, they found that they don’t build hotels like that anymore. Thank goodness. Sometime during the night in January, the wall came tumbling down. Read the rest of this entry »


Grand new opera for Nashville

September 27, 2007

Coming on the heels of the Nashville Symphony’s triumphal opening of the $123.5 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the city’s major opera company has announced plans for a new, $6 million opera house.

The Tennessean has a story on Nashville Opera’s new digs, which will open in the Fall of 2008. Having these new structures–and the fundraising campaigns that built them–so close together demonstrates the health of the arts in Middle Tennessee, the generosity of donors, and perhaps a need to give Nashville its old nickname: Athens of the South.

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Photo from Nashville Opera


The Expanding Universe of Billy Tripp

August 16, 2007

Old friend Franklin Jones told me about a Jackson Sun piece on Brownsville’s Billy Tripp, the greatest practitioner of outsider art in the state. Tripp created his Mind Field, a seven-story steel structure incorporating found objects such as a fire tower and various symbols that represent periods of his life and tributes to other people. It is the largest work of art in Tennessee, and it grows bigger every week.

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New plans for Graceland

August 12, 2007

Today’s Memphis Commercial Appeal has an article describing big–and much needed–changes at Graceland. Bob Sillerman acquired an 85 percent interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2005, and now he is rolling out $250 million worth of projects aimed at keeping the King on his throne.  Longtime President and CEO Jack Soden is the spokesman for the new efforts.

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Opening Brushy Mountain Prison for tourists?

July 30, 2007

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a short article noting the closing of Brushy Mountain Prison and raising the possibility that it be opened for visitors. Prison tourism has certainly paid off for some places. Alcatraz Island is on the short list of “must-sees” in San Francisco and Boston is about to open a hotel–jocularly named the Liberty Hotel–in the former Charles Street Jail. Then there’s this former prison in Oxford, England, where people can spend the night.

As interesting as Brushy Mountain might be to visitors, it has two strikes against it.

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Powell Service Station Airplane to fly again?

July 28, 2007

Just south of Ciderville between Knoxville and Clinton stands one of the more interesting roadside attractions in Tennessee: the Powell Airplane Service Station. Built in 1930, the structure recalls the excitement of a time when aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes captured public imagination. It sits along Highway 25W, a stretch of the famed Dixie Highway that ran from Detroit to Miami.

In our time, when one can drive 500 miles in one day and seemingly enter the same gas station/convenience store over and over, we can only imagine the delight of motorists from far away coming around the corner and seeing this fanciful building.

Such structures once graced American highways, but almost all have been bulldozed. This one survives, just barely. A wonderful group calling itself the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association seeks to restore the station to its original condition. Their website details progress and gives an address to which supporters can send donations.

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More photos here.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.


The last picture show in Franklin?

July 23, 2007

“No good deed goes unpunished,” usually attributed to Oscar Wilde, describes the situation facing the Franklin Cinema on Main Street. I was just there last month; downtown Franklin is one of the more beautiful and vibrant downtowns in Tennessee, a delight to residents as well as visitors. This 70-year-old movie theater now faces sale and probable demolition precisely because Franklin’s historic preservation efforts have been so successful.

According to an article in the Tennessean, “Franklin Cinema building owner Mark Bloom has given has given Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County officials a Sept. 15 deadline to put together a deal to purchase the former movie theater.” The article mentions a figure of $2 million.

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Fabled Andrew Johnson Hotel for sale

June 6, 2007

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the mayor of Knoxville wants to sell the Andrew Johnson Hotel. Built in 1930, its 18 stories made it the tallest hotel in East Tennessee, and it hosted all manner of luminaries.

Local historian and author Jack Neely claims that it is the only building in the world that housed–not at the same time–Jean-Paul Sartre, Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington, Tony Perkins, Liberace, and Sergey Rachmaninoff, who gave the last performance of his life in Knoxville. The top floor was once the home of radio station WNOX’s Midday Merry-Go-Round, a live show famous for launching the careers of country music stars.

The hotel is also famous for being one of the last places that Hank Williams saw the light.

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