Eight new TN sites added to National Register of Historic Places

News release from Tennessee Historical Commission

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Historical Commission announced today (May 19) the addition of eight Tennessee sites to the National Register of Historic Places.

“As Tennessee grows, it is important to recognize the unique historic places that help define us,” said Patrick McIntyre, state historic preservation officer and executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission. “The National Register is an honorary designation that emphasizes the importance of these special properties worth maintaining and passing along to future generations.”

Eight sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places are:

Cleveland Commercial Historic District (Cleveland – Bradley County)

The 65 buildings that make up the Cleveland Commercial Historic District represent the area that was historically the social, commercial, and governmental area of Bradley County. Cleveland developed on a grid pattern of streets with the county courthouse at the center. As the city grew a variety of new buildings and styles emerged. Buildings range in date from the 1850s to the 1960s and include Second Empire, Italianate, Classical Revival, and Mid-century Modern detailing. Many of the commercial buildings feature corbelled brick cornices, hood moldings, brackets, and large windows on their upper stories, while storefronts on the first story have been changed over the years. In 1965 the county built a new courthouse in the modernist Brutalism style. Although the architectural styles and functions of the buildings have changed, the area still functions as an important part of the city.

LaFollette Coke Ovens (LaFollette – Campbell County)

Beginning circa 1897, the LaFollette Coal, Iron, & Railway Company started purchasing land in Campbell County that eventually included 300 acres, two coal mines, an iron ore mine, a rock quarry, and coke ovens. Today, all that remains is approximately ten acres that includes remnants of the earlier industry, including two batteries of coke ovens. These ovens are the best representation of the important coal, iron, and rail industry in the region. The coal and coke ovens needed to process the material into useable fuel were once a vital industry in East Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau. After distilling in the ovens, the coke had fewer impurities and higher carbon content and could be used for ore smelting. The LaFollette Coke Ovens were closed in 1924 as more efficient methods of production were now in use.

Kern’s Bakery (Knoxville – Knox County)

Kern’s Bakery was established by Peter Kern in the 1860s in Knoxville. By 1931, when the current building was constructed on the Chapman Highway, Kern’s was owned by Brown-Greer & Company. The new building included offices, factory space, and a loading area. Having little ornamentation or embellishment on the façade, the new two-story brick building reflected the ideals of clean and modern manufacturing. Kern’s location on a major highway acted as a billboard advertising the company’s fresh baked breads. The company expanded their markets to other cities and states in the Southeast and the Kern’s brand was well-known in the region. The bakery was purchased by Sara Lee in 1989 and stopped production in 2012. Current plans are to redevelop the property using preservation tax incentives.

The Science Building (Cookeville – Putnam County)

The Science Building was built in 1929 as the first major educational building on the campus of Tennessee Technical University in Cookeville. Nashville-based architect Russell E. Hart designed the Colonial Revival style building. The imposing three-story brick building is embellished with multi-light windows, stone trim, and two-story stone columns. The main importance of the building is due to its association with T. J. Farr, the first administrative chair of the Education Department at the university. Farr’s office was in the building from 1929 until his retirement in 1962. He published extensively; promoted effective teaching methods, primarily for the rural areas of Tennessee; established the university’s poetry society; and was a founder, writer, and major advocate of the Tennessee Folklore Society. Farr became the first dean elected for the education department in 1949. In 1971 the university renamed the building the T. J. Farr building in honor of him.

William A. McMurry House (Springfield – Robertson County)

The William A. McMurry House in Springfield was built circa 1896 and extensively remodeled into its current form in the early 20th century. The two-story weatherboard house retains original Victorian-era details such as the projecting bays and shingled gables. Early 20th century Classical Revival features include the massive columns with Scamozzi capitals, symmetrical façade, and denticulated eaves. The importance of property is with William A. McMurry, who lived here from 1896 until his death in 1935. McMurry was an alderman from 1894-1899 and a tobacco dealer and investor in Robertson County. He was a tobacco agent for the Italian government, owned and operated several warehouses, and is credited with starting one of the first loose leaf auction houses in the city. McMurry was a founding member of the Springfield Tobacco Board of Trade and was considered by many of his peers to be the best judge of the quality of county’s dark-fired tobacco.

Rock of Ages Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (Memphis – Shelby County)

Designed by the Nashville architectural firm of McKissack and McKissack, the Rock of Ages Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1955 in Memphis’ Binghampton neighborhood. At that time, McKissack and McKissack was the only African American architectural firm licensed in Tennessee. The stripped classicism of the company’s design reflects both a traditional design with post-WWII modern influences. McKissack and McKissack’s design of the two-story brick building is seen in the columned entry, symmetrical design, and brick pilasters. More important than the design of the building is the role it played in the early 1960s Civil Rights movement in Memphis. Although not as well-known as the 1968 sanitation worker’s strike, in 1960, 200 city sanitation workers met at the church to begin organizing for equal representation with the Teamsters Union. As the union organization movement grew, larger venues were needed. While the 1960 effort was not successful, it is considered a strategic moment in the city’s Civil Rights movement.

Charles Davis House (Collierville – Shelby County)

Located in Collierville, the Charles Davis House was built in 1841 and in 1855, Andrew Taylor purchased and remodeled the house as a gift to his daughter Laura Therese and her new husband Charles Davis. The two-story frame residence is a good example of a Greek Revival influenced I-house. Covered in shiplap, the most prominent feature of the house is the pedimented entry with square paneled columns and double-leaf doors, on both stories, that are flanked by glass and wood sidelights. Multi-light windows with shutters and pilasters on the exterior and paneled woodwork with shouldered architrave trim inside are important Greek Revival features of the house. The house stayed in the Davis and Taylor families until 1945 when the Porter family purchased the house and updated the interior. There are few changes to the historic architecture of the house.

Memphis Federation of Musicians Local 71 Building (Memphis – Shelby County)

Designed by Memphis Federation of Musicians member and local architect William Gaskill in 1961, the building is a modest example of the International Commercial style. Located at the edge of a residential area in Memphis, the stark concrete and brick veneer and unadorned aluminum windows are the features that define the style. More important than the style is the role the building had with the Memphis Sound, popularized by the city’s Stax Recording Studio. The sound was a Southern version of Soul music popular in the 1960s that included horns, organs, bass, and drums. Until the British Invasion of the Beatles and other groups, the Memphis Sound was at the height of popularity in pop music. As music tastes began to change and use and importance of Local 71 declined, as did its membership. Today the Memphis Symphony Orchestra makes up most of the local’s membership.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It is part of a nationwide program that coordinates and supports efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic resources. The Tennessee Historical Commission, as the State Historic Preservation Office, administers the program in Tennessee.

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