Commission votes to purchase land next to Rock House

State may reimburse county for cost of property


White County Board of Commissioners decided to keep the area around one of the county’s historic landmarks preserved. With an 11-1 vote, the commission made the decision to purchase 20 acres surrounding the historic Rock House, a former stagecoach stop where former U.S. presidents had stayed the night.

Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission on State Historic Preservation, was present during the April 15 meeting to discuss the site and the state’s request for White County’s help in purchasing the property.

“We’re in the midst of a transformative half-million-dollar project that is going to fully restore that to the way it looked in the 19th century,” McIntyre said, adding that he felt that it will become a major component for the tourism industry in White County. “One of the issues we’ve encountered is that the property, of course, is landlocked on just over an acre.”

McIntyre said his commission recently evaluated the property and declared it to be historically significant and would like to preserve the property for future generations.

“This is kind of a neat intersection where things come together,” he said mentioning that the original Sparta Turnpike runs through the property and is the reason the Rock House was built. “There are traces of that original roadbed still there.”

McIntyre also said the first railroad line in Tennessee, the Old Nashville, Chattanooga, and Saint Louis Railroad Line, ran in that general area dating back to 1848. He also pointed to the Memphis to Bristol Highway being above the property as well.

“As transportation resources and tourism resources, that’s fascinating,” he said, “and we’re excited about the opportunities here to grow that as a park.”

The state approached White County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson to assist with the purchase of 50 acres because of the length of time it would take them to get through the processes needed for the state to purchase the property directly. However, Robinson felt that 20 acres, at $12,000 per acre, was more in line with what the county could afford, and that is what he presented to the budget committee who, in turn, sent a resolution to the full court.

When asked, McIntyre said he could not guarantee the state would reimburse White County for the purchase but did tell the commissioners that, historically, that had happened in instances such as this.

“We do have a fund that has more than enough money to cover the property purchase,” he said. “I can’t make 100 percent guarantee, but historically that’s the way these things go.”

Ultimately, the White County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of the purchase, with Chris Brewington being the only vote against the decision and Jordan Cocke and Thomas Margeson being absent.

 After the vote, Commissioner T.K. Austin made a motion the commission give Robinson the authority to negotiate for the other additional 30 acres the state had originally been interested in. The motion passed with all commissioners present voting in favor.

The next meeting of the White County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 20, on the third floor of the White County Courthouse.        


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here