Elizabethton/Johnson City to renovate old Estep Coal Company building

Published 8:02 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A small building sits at the little corner where West F Street splits into East Elk Avenue and East Doe Avenue, torn up by the forces of time. The paint on the walls has chipped a million times over, the wooden boards are rotting and soggy and the inside smells like a history museum. In spite of the elements, however, its significance in the region’s history has not eroded away, and members of East Tennessee have decided to pitch in to stem the building’s defeat.

Representatives from Elizabethton and Johnson City came together at the old Estep Coal Company building Monday to discuss possible renovation plans for the historical landmark.

Daniel Schumaier, chairman of the Tweetsie Trail Conservancy, said the building’s significance to the region’s history warrants attempts to preserve it as much as possible.

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“The building has been here forever,” Schumaier said. “It is an icon now, a point of interest along the trail.”

The building is part of a series of landmarks that make up the local Tweetsie Trail that runs all along Johnson City and Elizabethton. While Johnson City owns the property because they own the trail itself, Johnson City will not be the only ones working on this.

“This is a cooperative project between Johnson City and Elizabethton,” Elizabethton City Councilman Bill Carter said.

The team of representatives discussed the various jobs they would need to do in order to complete the renovations, including the possibility of moving the power line pole that stands not even three feet away from the property.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford arrived to discuss the project as well, and TTC representatives discussed the possibility of using federal inmates to provide the labor.

“We have about $2,800 for it right now, with [TTC] providing about $2,000 of it,” Schumaier said.

The representatives discussed in what ways they could renovate the property while preserving the original look and feel of the building. They said they needed to assume a number of things, including the presence of lead in the original paint. As a result, they said they would like to simply paint over the structure entirely as opposed to messing with it more deeply.

The building also sits at an angle due to the lack of a foundation, and while workers in the past tried to raise the structure to make it level, they were only successful in raising the floor inside the building as opposed to the building itself.

“We are working on getting a sign to put next to the building to better identify it, and we might even put in a picnic table,” Schumaier said. “This will be an ongoing project. Hopefully, we can finish in the next three to four months.”

Both Carter and Schumaier said those interested in donating pictures of the building as it once was or a more financial contribution can do so by bringing it to Elizabethton City Hall.