Bonnie Kate makes state’s list of most endangered properties

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Star Photo/Rebekah Price

Star Photo/Rebekah Price

As donations have begun to trickle in to the Bonnie Kate Preservation Fund, some other good news appears to be on the horizon for the historic Elizabethton theater.
Several news outlets from across the state have reported that the Bonnie Kate Theater is on the 2015 Ten in Tennessee Most Endangered List of historic properties.
If that is true, once the building is purchased, having that designation would be a big boost to the group seeking to preserve the building as they apply for grants to help with the renovations.
A posting on the Tennessee Preservation Trust facebook page seems to confirm the selection with this post: “Looks like someone let it slip that the Bonnie Kate Theater in Elizabethton made Ten in Tennessee List! Learn more about the historic theater and find out who else made the list this Thursday, Oct. 29, as we host a special event at the Athenaeum Rectory in Columbia, Tn.”
Local businessman and fund organizer, John Huber, and Elizabethton Planning and Economic Development Director Jon Hartman have their fingers crossed and plan to attend a ceremony in Columbia, Thursday evening when the 2015 Ten in Tennessee Most Endangered List of historic properties from across the state will be officially announced.
The Bonnie Kate Theater traces its history back to 1926. Huber’s group hopes to preserve the building and turn it into a performing arts center. “First and foremost we must secure the building, which is now in the hands of a local bank,” said Huber.
“We want to reach out to the public, to businesses, civic groups, and philanthropists,” Huber said. “Currently, we need funds to purchase the building. That’s our biggest need. Until we get ownership of the building, we can’t do anything.”
The project has already received a pledge for a $10,000 donation and the offer to match any donation up to that amount. Also, several smaller donations have been received.
“We probably have received $1,500 in small donations,” said Huber.
Huber said the group needs to raise $180,000 to $200,000 initially for the purchase of the building and to make additional roof repairs. Once the group has ownership of the property, it hopes to raise another $75,000 through grants, from the public and supporters to do further renovations. Eventually, the goal is to turn the building over to the City of Elizabethton.
“Ten in Tennessee provides an opportunity for education and action,” said Michael Birdwell, Tennessee Preservation Trust Board vice chairman. “We want to inform the public about endangered historic structures that have significance for a specific place in the entire state and nation. Once the public knows why this building or that is important, we want them to embrace the history and urge them to join us in preserving these treasures.”
Among the other sites reportedly nominated to the annual list of most threatened Tennessee historic sites by the Tennessee Preservation Trust were the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall, Memphis’ Marine Hospital and Nashville’s Hillsboro Village.
Each year the Trust accepts nominations from the public from which a panel of judges, each with preservation-related expertise, evaluates and selects 10 properties that best represent the state’s most endangered.
Since 2001, the list has been released annually to raise public awareness of Tennessee’s endangered historic resources and give credibility to restoration efforts across the state. Of the 110 previously listed properties, close to half have been saved or are in the process of being protected or rehabilitated and many have accepted grants for restoration.
The Elizabethton Carter County Foundation, which is an affiliate of the East Tennessee Foundation, will act as the agent for the receiving and dispensing of the funds until a Bonnie Kate Foundation is formed.
Checks should be made out to the Elizabethton Carter County Foundation and designated for the Bonnie Kate Fund. Donations or pledges can be mailed to Bonnie Kate Fund, P.O. Box 695, Elizabethton, TN 37644-0695.
All donations are tax deductible.

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