Renovation on Estep Coal Building begins

As workers blocked off parts of Sycamore Street Thursday, workers gathered in the heat and humidity to participate in another kind of construction project that began on the other side of downtown Elizabethton: the renovation of the Estep Coal Building.

Elizabethton City Council member Bill Carter met with county inmates Thursday morning to begin the groundwork for the renovations they have been planning since at least February.

“Our primary concern is getting [the building] off the ground,” Carter said.

Carter said the project has received funding from Charles LaPorte, and the sheriff’s office sent trustees to assist with some of the labor.

Workers jacked the bottom half of the building up as work began, and Carter said they plan to add further support to the building to keep it upright.

The renovations come at the heels of months of preparation and planning, as Elizabethton and Johnson City have pooled together resources with the Tweetsie Trail Conservancy in order to preserve what Carter described as a city landmark.

“It is a historical icon,” he said. “It deserves to be preserved.”

The building has sat on East Elk Avenue since the 1940s, and time has eroded much of the foundation, walls and windows, yet when the city considered tearing the building down at first, Carter said the public called to consider other options.

Now, work has officially begun to restore the small building, and though he did not provide an official completion date, he described the project as a “high priority.”

“We will go as quickly as we can,” Carter said. “We want to make it as safe as we possibly can.”

In addition to the improved foundation, Carter mentioned plans to install a gate at the front of the building so passersby can observe the building from the outside but not actually enter the structure, citing safety concerns. He did say they were considering removing the gate at a later point, however.

“This is a piece of Elizabethton history,” he said. “It is a nice site on the trail for people to enjoy.”

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