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Local couple give downtown building to Heritage Alliance

A historic building in downtown Jonesborough has been donated to the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia by local residents Bernard and Audrey Kaiman.
Announcement of the contribution came from Board of Trustees President Jim Reel at the group’s annual meeting on Feb. 21.
The donated building is located at 129 E. Main St., and currently houses the Old Sweet Shop, a long-standing, seasonal ice cream shop.
However, Reel said, the organization has yet to formally accept the contribution.
“We haven’t officially accepted the building yet,” Reel said. “We want each of the board members to look at the building so we can decide what we want to do (with it).”
The Kaimans’ insurance is currently covering the building and that insurance is good until the Heritage Alliance accepts the building, a major reason for not immediately accepting the donation, Reel said.
As for the future use of the building, Reel said that in all probability, the group will opt to sell it.
“It needs a lot of repairs,” Reel said. “The roof needs repair and a lot of work needs to be done on it. It would be a big job to tackle. I understand there are one or two people already interested in looking at it, and we will certainly let them.”
Reel expects decisions concerning the building to be made at the Heritage Alliance’s next board meeting in mid-March.
“This has been such a fast thing,” Reel said, “and we want the full input of the board before we make that decision.”
When the Heritage Alliance takes possession of the property, it will become the fifth building under the Heritage Alliance’s care. The organization also maintains the organization’s headquarters ­— the historic Duncan House, the Chester Inn, Oak Hill School and The Salvage Warehouse, where the group stores and sells architectural salvage.
The donated building, appraised at $116,400 according to Washington County tax records, was built in 1905. It replaced a two-story brick hardware store known as the Mason Storehouse, which was demolished in 1904 and rebuilt by the Masonic Order.
In 1905, it became the home of Rhea Lodge No. 47, Free and Accepted Masons.
The Kaimans purchased the property in 1970.
Because of the Kaimans’ many contributions to the Heritage Alliance and the community of Jonesborough, the group’s top annual preservation award has been named in their honor.
It is now known as the Bernard and Audrey Kaiman Award for Excellence in Preservation Advocacy.