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Knox Heritage

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center: One More Reason to “Visit the Peaceful Side of the Smokies”

By Nancy Williams

In the peaceful gateway community of Townsend, TN, sits a museum like none other, its existence the result of a road-widening project through Tuckaleechee Cove on Highway 321. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires any road project be preceded by an archeological survey. During the survey for this particular project, archeologists began uncovering pieces of history – tens of thousands of artifacts left behind over thousands of years, as it turned out, by civilizations that once called the Smoky Mountains “home.”

The artifacts became property of the state of Tennessee and were destined to become part of the University of Tennessee archives. Due to the work of a handful of local residents who wanted to see their own history shared closer to home, an idea began to take shape and grew into a community-wide effort to build a museum near the original site of the findings.

Following five years of planning, fundraising, construction, and collection, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center officially opened its doors in 2006. Since that time, the Heritage Center has hosted 175,000 visitors, 45,000 of whom were children on organized school tours and the remainder casual visitors – local and from other states and countries.

“It’s important that our youth and adult visitors have the opportunity to know where they came from and to be able to look through a time window into mountain life in other eras,” said Heritage Center Director Bob Patterson.

The Heritage Center consists of a 17,000 square foot, two-story main building that houses two galleries, a 100-seat indoor auditorium, two classrooms, a gift shop, and offices. Outside are 12 historic outbuildings – all but two are authentic structures from Blount and surrounding counties that were carefully taken down and re-constructed on the Center’s six acres. One of the most visible parts of the Center is the 500-seat covered outdoor amphitheater and stage, the setting for warm-weather concerts and other events.

Behind the main building is the historic village – a sawmill, set-off house, wheelwright shop, big cantilever barn, grainery, chapel, Montvale Station, Cardwell Cabin, small cantilever barn, smokehouse, outhouse, and underground still with a shed built directly above it. Of all the historic structures, Cardwell Cabin seems to be the most popular with visitors.

“This is the type of structure where people lived their lives moment to moment,” Patterson said. “It’s something visitors can identify with – being at home.”

Inside the main building, visitors can trace the history of Tuckaleechee Cove, beginning with those Native Americans from 5,000 years back through the Pre-Cherokee and Cherokee eras and the Euro-American period. Tools, ceremonial masks, housing, cooking utensils, plants, furniture, medicine, and more are featured, along with interactive videos on such topics as Cherokee games and pottery making.

Docent-led school tours are common at the Center, as are its special events that include everything from traveling exhibits – like the Kephart/Broome exhibit currently in the Proffitt Gallery or the model of the Titanic now on display in the main gallery – to summer and fall concerts, woodcarver and fiber arts festivals, storytelling, book signings, photography workshops, and an old-fashioned country fair that celebrates homemade products, agriculture, and family fun.

The Center is also the base for Cades Cove Heritage Tours, a guided bus tour of the nearby national park’s most popular destination. These tours run on a regular basis during the busiest seasons and provide the opportunity to enjoy the views and wildlife of Cades Cove and to learn its human history.

The Heritage Center is run and maintained by five full-time and four part-time staff and a host of volunteers. In 2011, volunteer help at the Center accounted for over 12,000 hours, or the equivalent of six full-time staff positions!

Located on Scenic Highway 73 just past Townsend’s one traffic light, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is Blount County’s only year-round attraction. General admission is free with annual membership, $6 for adults, and $4 for senior adults and students. Group rates are also available. Many of the Center’s facilities are available for rentals for meetings, reunions, workshops, receptions, and weddings.

For more information, visit www.gsmheritagecenter.org or call 865.448.0044.

Each month contributors from the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) write an article for Everything Knoxville celebrating the rich heritage of our region. ETPA is a regional historic preservation membership-based organization that serves Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties. Preservation field services in this region are provided by Knox Heritage and are assisted by a Partners in the Field grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information and to get involved, visit www.knoxheritage.org or www.etpaonline.org.

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Knox Heritage

Stunning Food and Delicious Views

Since 2004, Knox Heritage has presented an annual series of “Summer Suppers” in some of Knox County’s most spectacular historic places. Each supper is a unique experience unmatched by any event in Knoxville. The 12-13 suppers are organized by host committees of volunteers who work together to plan every detail of the event. From menu preparation, to wine selection, to dishwashing, the host committees make it work.

Last year, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance joined in the fun and hosted the first Summer Suppers beyond Knox County. One supper highlighted the beautiful Claypond Farm in Loudon County with a tasty menu of grilled seasonal vegetables, slow cooked chicken breasts, Lynchburg lemonade, and homemade ice cream. We even had a grand piano under the tent for entertainment. The second supper was atop Preservation Plaza in Downtown Maryville and featured stunning views of the mountains, delicious tapas, and sangria (a secret recipe!).

This summer, ETPA is again hosting two regional suppers. This year, we’ll be at Richland Mill on August 13 in the rolling hills of Grainger County for “Country Dining Down by the Old Mill Stream.” The story of the mill dates back to 1796 when William Stone was given permission by the first Grainger County Meeting to build a mill on Richland Creek.  Occupied by both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War, the mill remained in the Stone family until 1904.  Later owners built the Miller’s Cottage for a residence, and the mill continued operation until 1958.  Marvin and Janie House purchased the mill in 1996 and faithfully restored it, with additions made to serve as their unique residence.

Guests will be treated to Grainger County tomato sandwiches, baked country ham with an apricot-cranberry-orange glaze, blue cheese and green onion potato salad, apple slaw, spicy Grainger County tomato grits, seasonal fruit cobblers, and of course a cool stream breeze cocktail. Just imagine a warm summer evening along the cool, gurgling Richland Creek.

Then, on September 11, Beverly and Jack Kramer will open their home for the “Riverside Supper at the McBee Farm.” This Summer Supper is a rare treat! Overlooking the Holston River and McBee Island from the lawn of the McBee House, guests will dine on freshly grown, locally raised, chemical free, farm to table fare. The circa 1830 brick house is one of the oldest surviving houses from the time period in the area and sits on a working farm.

Our hosts have lovingly restored this home and farmstead and received preservation awards from the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities and ETPA. Evening entertainment will include tours of the home, a fox hunt demonstration by the Tennessee Valley Hunt Club, a wagon ride along the banks of the Holston, and music suitable to the setting. This will be a special evening to remember.

The host committee, which includes sisters Jennifer Niceley and Anna Barreiro, has pulled together a tasty spread of local fare that showcases the talents and flavors of Jefferson County. A sampling includes freshly picked vegetables, homegrown herb and hickory cane corn muffins with homemade butter, rosemary pork tenderloin, and vanilla lemon custard with berry coulis. The menu will complement the views perfectly.

We hope to see you at the Richland Mill and the McBee Farm this summer for one of East Tennessee Preservation Alliance’s Summer Suppers. For more detailed information, including full menus, ticket ordering information, and the list of all Knox Heritage Summer Suppers, please visit www.knoxheritage.org or call (865) 523-8008. Tickets will sell out quickly!

ETPA is a membership organization that relies on the input and support of volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a member, serving on a committee, hosting an event, or need technical assistance for your historic place, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Each month contributors from the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) write an article for Everything Knoxville celebrating the rich heritage of our region. ETPA is a regional historic preservation membership-based organization that serves Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties. Preservation field services in this region are provided by Knox Heritage and are assisted by a Partners in the Field grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, please visit www.knoxheritage.org.

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Greenback: A Railroad Town without a Railroad

Greenback. A sleepy little town? A return to a lifestyle of years ago? It’s depot a symbol of a once thriving town? Or a diamond in the rough?

More than anything, Greenback symbolizes the effect that transportation has on the country. Prior to the establishment of Greenback, the city of Morganton flourished on the banks of the Little Tennessee River. Morganton, formerly known as Portsville, was a bustling town where the ships and flatboats of the country loaded and unloaded goods for the settlers. Ferries provided access across the Little Tennessee.

Then the railroad came! In 1870, Loudon County was established and Greenback became a town. The first trains came through in the 1870s. Then, in 1899, the word came that the L&N railroad would open a second line to be laid somewhere in the area between Morganton or Trigonia toward Maryville. Lorenzo Thompson of Thompson’s Stand and the Swaney Brothers of Trigonia plotted the area where they believed the railroad would go and purchased property. At the time Thompson had been approved for a Post Office at Thompson’s Stand. The Swaneys built a store and Thompson moved his Post Office there. Land for the town was given by the Thompsons and the Halls. Construction started and the first train ran in July 1890.

In 1914, the L&N built a large new depot there and it still stands today. Greenback grew up around that depot and flourished for several years. The frame buildings burned in 1917, 1923, and 1927, but businesses rebuilt. The main part of town included a drug store and diner, three grocery stores, a garage, a blacksmith shop, a hardware store, a bank, and others.

The last train in Greenback ran in 1978.

With the closure of Tellico Dam, water traffic again became popular. Boat companies became numerous. L&N sold the old Depot to Supra Boat Company. The Depot went through several uses including an antique shop and is now used for storage by the current owner.

The City of Greenback began to decline and the Depot stands as a proud sentinel to its more prosperous days. The Greenback Drug and Diner across the street is still the local hangout and next door to it is the Greenback Heritage Museum. The Greenback Historical Society has placed a replica of the Quilt Pattern Boxcar on the outside wall of the Diner and this is included on the Appalachian Quilt Trail. The pattern was chosen to represent the railroad that was the impetus for the founding of the town.

The town is surrounded by a farming community and many of the owners are descendents of its founders. The inhabitants are an independent and close-knit group, but they have long been known for their warmth and hospitality. Many have opened their arms and their hearts to those who have moved to the lakeside communities that have developed near Tellico Lake.

The newcomers in turn have joined local churches, volunteered to work in the museum which is run completely by volunteers, and help with the work of the Historical Society and the local Food Pantry. A Greenback Heritage Scrapbook Committee is working to collect, assemble, and publish photos and articles regarding the history of Greenback. The Greenback Historical Society is a non-profit group that works toward preserving the history of the community. The group sponsored an Open House in early December at the circa 1850s McCollum House, recently restored by Tim Grindstaff.

H & R Block recently chose Greenback for a new ad campaign. The company stayed in the community for a number of days, filming and interviewing residents. They filmed the depot, drug store and museum as well as the locals. One may see the commercials coined “Greenbacks for Greenback.” The company was so impressed with the town and its people that it gave $25,000 to the school and rode in the Christmas Parade before they left town.

The depot is now in private hands. It sits silently in the midst of the town it helped create and is a historic treasure. Often times the residents say, “I wish something could be done about the depot,” but no one has yet come forward to preserve and restore the building. We hope this year will be the year the depot is put to use once again.

Carolyn M. Peck is a native of Greenback, President of the Greenback Historical Society and a board member of the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance.

Each month contributors from the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) write an article for Everything Knoxville celebrating the rich heritage of our region. ETPA is a regional historic preservation membership-based organization that serves Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union counties. Preservation field services in this region are provided by Knox Heritage and are assisted by a Partners in the Field grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, please visit www.knoxheritage.org or contact Ethiel Garlington at egarlington@knoxheritage.org.

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