Hawkins commission approves transfer of 'rotting' Rogersville Depot to city

Jeff Bobo • Jan 31, 2020 at 3:15 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville now officially has four historic restoration projects underway at the same time with the Hawkins County Commission's approval on Monday to quitclaim the Rogersville Depot property to the city.

Of the four pending restorations, the Rogersville Depot, located at the corner of Depot Street and Broadway Street, will be the least extensive and least expensive, and in fact building inspector Steve Nelson said on Thursday he'll initially do some of the work himself.

The Depot, which was built in 1890, was donated to the county in 1986 by the Southern Railway Company, and in 1987 the county agreed to lease the depot to the Rogersville Heritage Association for 99 years.

Currently the Depot serves as the headquarters of the RHA, and is also the Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum.

Last year the county opted not to seek available grant funds to pay for needed repairs to the exterior, after which the city agreed to take ownership of the depot so it could take over the restoration.

“At least the rot is going to stop”

Nelson, who spearheads Rogersville's historic preservation efforts, said faulty guttering on the back side of the depot caused some of the wood siding to get wet and rot.

“I need to replace some siding,” Nelson said. “I need to replace the guttering. It needs to be repainted.”

Nelson added, “The biggest thing is the guttering. The guttering is going to be an expensive job.”

Nelson estimates it will cost $70,000 to $80,000 to replace all the rotted siding, replace the guttering and painting.

“What I'm probably going to do on my own is go up there and see if I can seal up the worst places that are leaking in the guttering — temporarily,” Nelson added. “If the water isn't splashing on it, at least the rot is going to stop and it's not going to get any worse before we get a grant and get it repaired.”

Nelson added, “That's what caused all this rot. Those boards are so rotted a lot of them are just gone. It's down to the studs in some places. If they had put gutters on it years ago we wouldn't have this issue.”

The other three pending Rogersville historic restorations include the St. Marks Presbyterian Church, Rogers Tavern and Powel Law Office.

St. Marks Presbyterian Church

An independent restoration committee utilized a Rogersville grant to complete repairs last year to the exterior and replace broken stained glass at the 108-year-old church located at the corner of Kyle Street and Hasson Street.

That committee, which acquired a 99-year lease for the church from the Hawkins County Board of Education, is expected to meet on Tuesday evening to begin talking about ideas for restoring the church interior.

A previous effort to restore St. Mark’ for use as a community center lost momentum in 2008 when the project’s champion, longtime teacher and school board member Ella Jo Bradley, passed away. Bradley’s vision for the facility was to transform it into a community center for children to practice the arts.

In 2015 the church was identified as one of the top-10 endangered historic properties in Tennessee.

Powel Law Office

Earlier this month the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to apply for a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission to begin the first of three phases of restoration for the circa 1790s structure.

The building is owned by the city and is located on Washington Street near the Depot Street intersection.

It was originally the law office of Congressman Samuel Powel (1776-1841), and was also the subject of an extensive study by Tennessee state historian Dr. Carroll Van West who endorsed the restoration.

Phase 1 involves repair of the foundation and replacement of the roof. Phase 2 will be repair of the log exterior, windows and doors; and Phase 3 will be the interior restoration.

Rogers Tavern

The Rogersville Heritage Association owns the Rogers Tavern which was built by Rogersville founder Joseph Rogers (1764-1833) in the 1790s on present day Rogers Street adjacent to Crockett Creek Park.

Currently the RHA is raising funds to restore the tavern to its original 1790s appearance, in hopes that those funds would be used to match a future grant.

Dr. Van West conducted a study on Rogers Tavern, and endorsed a restoration there as well. That study, as well as the revelation last year that William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame spent the night there in 1809, is expected to be helpful in future grant applications.

There are links to previous articles with more information about each of these pending historical restoration projects in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net