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Commission approves historic district expansion

The Jonesborough Historic District, shown within the black line, has grown. (Photo contributed)


Associate Editor

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The expansion of the Jonesborough Historic District boundary has been approved by the Tennessee Historical Commission for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The approval of the expansion came last week as one of eight sites added that include a farm, bank-building, two churches, a mounted police station and a fallout shelter, in addition to the Jonesborough historic district revision.

“We love it,” said William E. Kennedy, Chairman of Jonesborough’s Historic Zoning Commission, upon receiving notification that the state historic preservation office, a part of the THC, approved the application submitted on Sept. 14, 2016.    

The “we” includes a number of individuals and public officials who contributed to obtaining the designation beginning with a Survey Grant by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2011 and 2012. 

The significance of the eight-year effort was summarized by Kennedy stating, “It gives distinction to neighborhoods that embrace two-thirds of the early 20th century. It gives a tangible connection with the past and give us a connection with the recent past.

“For many people alive today, these are the homes of their parents and grandparents. These homes and the styles of these homes connect us with memories of our past.” 

Five district styles of properties are identified in the expansion – the late 19th and early 20th century  Folk Victorian, Bungalow and Craftsman dwellings, Tudor Revival houses, Minimal Traditional structures, and Ranch Style housing.

As approved in the National Register Application, “The Jonesborough Historic District Boundary Increase includes properties along three streets – East Main Street, South Cherokee Street and Locust Street.  The largest number of properties is located along East Main Street extending from the existing boundary a distance of four blocks to include 66 properties…The intersecting streets of Jackson Lane and Scott are also included in the boundary increase…

“The second largest group of properties is located along the 300-500 blocks of South Cherokee Street, south of the downtown core. The third largest concentration includes eleven properties in the 500 block of Locust Street.”

Properties are assigned a status of “Contributing” or “Non-Contributing” based on the dates of construction (at least 50 years old or older to be considered) and the degree of alteration to the exterior of the resource that compromises its architectural integrity.

The Historic Zoning Chairman commented, “The baby boomers still live in the houses.  The memories are meaningful for many people.” Kennedy said owners of contributing properties can place a Historic Register designation on their homes.  “They know what (the designation) means in Jonesborough.”

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 announcement of the District Expansion noted that Jonesborough was first listed in the Register in 1969.  “It was one of the state’s first nominations for the town that is considered the oldest town in Tennessee,” the release continued.  The community worked also to become a Certified Local Government and received a matching grant from the Preservation Office to update and revise the original nomination of the district so that 20th century property could be included in the district.

The expansion nearly doubles the original Jonesborough Historic District.  It includes 165 additional buildings and structures. Of those, there are 116 that are contributing.  There are two commercial properties within the boundary increase. Commercial properties that are contributing may qualify for tax benefits, according to Kennedy. 

In reflecting personally on the benefits of the designation he said, “We have lived in a historic district for 46 years.  We (William and his wife, Virginia) would not want to live outside the historic district.  We have experienced wonderful enhancements because of it.”