Greenback Depot makes the List! In the News Herald.
February 4, 2014
The small town of Greenback is steeped in history and local residents are continuing efforts to preserve that legacy for future generations.
The long-standing Greenback Depot is officially considered a historical site. The Tennessee Historical Commission announced last week that the depot would be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Louisville and Nashville Railroad built the Greenback Depot in 1914.
East Tennessee Preservation Alliance board member Carolyn Peck said the depot was used to organize passengers until 1968 and freight until 1978.
Peck said the Greenback Historical Society had been trying to get the depot nationally recognized since about 2008. As a longtime Greenback resident, she said she was happy the building finally got its recognition.
“People kept saying to me, ‘I wish we’d do something about the depot,’ because it looked like â€” we started about â€” I finally a couple of years later, I decided people were going to keep asking me that (and) unless I did something, nothing was going to happen. So along 2008, 2009, I started publicizing it and talking to the owner whose name was (Larry) Alley at the time.”
The Alleys eventually sold the property to Greenback resident Ron Edmondson for $200,000 in March 2012. With the help of Greenback volunteers, Edmondson worked toward restoring the depot to its original state. Renovations cost about $165,000, he said.
Author: Jeremy Nash
“He’s (Edmondson) told me way back in the beginning that what he wanted to do was restore it so it was the center of Greenback and spark Greenback to make other improvements, to want people to be proud of their community and make other improvements,” Peck said with tears in her eyes. “I get teary real easy right now.”
For Edmondson, revamping the building is about preserving a majority of the original infrastructure.
“My goal is that at some point in my life when I (finish) this thing, when I get the rest of out here done, when I get the little things done, I am going to make a very strong effort to see that the state of Tennessee, the county of Loudon, the city of Greenback, that somebody will take that property with written agreements that it will remain in the condition that they found it when we signed that piece of paper,” he said. “I’ll be happy to do that.”
There remains work to be done. Despite doing a number of renovations, like removing a false second story within the building and adding on to the back of the depot to relocate the restrooms, Edmondson said there were “little things” that needed to be finished, such as replacing phone cables and fixing drainage pipes.
“This thing needs to look like it looked the day that Squire (William H.) Jones came in and said it’s done, you know?” he said. “So that’s what I’m â€” that’s my goal. As long as I’ve got something to keep me busy, I’m happy.”
According to the National Register of Historic Places application form, Jones was the depot’s station agent from 1910 until he died in 1954. He was the deputy county clerk and squire, and he sold vehicles, hunting and fishing licenses and marriage licenses. He officiated more than 3,500 marriages with many ceremonies occurring in the Greenback Depot.
Peck said the facility was host to a number of community events including birthday parties, holiday parties and anniversaries.
“Everybody has been so excited and so many things have been scheduled to go on in here â€” I mean, birthday parties, anniversaries, Thanksgiving parties, Christmas parties and, you know, things like that that people want to use it for,” she said. “We have a Halloween festival downtown the last Saturday in October and they moved it â€” well, it’s outside but also inside in the depot and that’s getting bigger every year.”
Upon finishing renovations, Edmondson said he hoped to use the depot as a city museum.
“We need to be prepared and we need to have this town to where when people drive by the road here and turn around and look, they say, ‘Holy crap, did you see that Indian (statue)?’ ‘No, I didn’t see that Indian, but I saw that elk (statue) back there. Turn around and let’s go look,'” Edmondson said. “They pull back in here, they walk in, they say, ‘There’s a museum in there. Let’s go in there and look at it.'”
Paul Bailey, GHS member, said Edmondson’s work positively impacted city residents.
“If you’re not familiar with the town, this looks a lot different today than it looked two, three years ago,” Bailey said. “This was all run down, I guess is the best way to describe it. None of this was mowed or anything, so it’s changed a lot and it’s all I think because this (Greenback Depot) came back to life and people decided to make things in their own way a little better.”
As an owner of seven properties in Greenback, including the old Gorley’s Grocery Store lot, Edmondson said he had plans for the vacant land. He said he hoped to rebuild Gorley’s with “plenty of parking” and picnic tables beside the store for the community to use.
Preservation is an important factor to consider, Edmondson and Bailey said.
“Can you read those letters?” Edmondson said, pointing to acronyms on the wooden Native American statue beside Morganton Road. “Know what it stands for? Greenback High School. That’s how important it is to me. Kids is all that’s important in this world. Me and this old guy’s (Bailey) going to get older and older and older, and my one hope is that there’ll be somebody that’ll have the same attitude toward this town and toward the things in this town that have got it to where it’s at right now.”