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White County Purchases Rock House Land For State

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
White County Purchases Rock House Land For State

The White County Commission approved the purchase of 20 acres surrounding the historic Rock House Monday night.

Commissioners heard a presentation from the Tennessee Historical Commission explaining the importance of preserving the Rock House site and its surrounding area. Historic Sites Program Director Dan Brown said the area is valuable for its place in both local and state history.

“And a lot of people say, ‘Oh that little Rock House, it’s nothing,’” Brown said. “It’s the Rock Houses and the little sites like that that get torn down. They save all the mansions and this, and we’re really forced, there’s only two or three of them left in the whole state. And it’s got the history with it. And we’re really, in the next month or so, going to kick off a half million dollar construction rehabilitation project.”

Historical Commission Executive Director Patrick McIntyre said the goal would be for the state to purchase the land from the county and add it to the Rock House site as soon as possible. Commissioners also passed a motion authorizing Executive Denny Wayne Robinson to negotiate with the landowner to purchase an additional 30 acres of neighboring land.

McIntyre said they are currently planning a $500,000 project to restore the Rock House to the way it looked in the 1800s. McIntyre said the 20 acres will include the original Sparta turnpike, part of the first railroad line in Tennessee, and a section of the 109-year-old highway from Memphis to Bristol.

“I like to say that heritage tourism is a permanent economic asset because it doesn’t go out of business like a factory or something,” McIntyre said. “If you put your money and resources into it, it’s always there and people are always coming to it.”

Nowhere in the deal is the state legally bound to purchase the land from the county, but McIntyre said they have a fund with money set aside for these kinds of projects.

“We’re excited about the opportunities here to grow that as a park to be in proximity to other things that are coming online in this area and to be a real amenity for everybody there,” McIntyre said.

Brown said the state is considering adding a walking trail to the site that would connect it to the Dog Cove Historic Area. Brown said the Rock House currently gets 5,000 to 10,000 visitors each year.

“They don’t charge admission there it’s such a small facility,” Brown said. “But there’s thousands and thousands of visitors that stop by there briefly.”

Brown said there has been discussion of logging on the land if any of it is purchased by other parties.

“There’s some stunning lumber on this site, if you go over there and look at it. I mean, good hundred, hundred and twenty year old stuff. It’s great stock. And of course, that’s what makes it a beautiful, natural area for us.”


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