Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop Papers
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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a corporate agency of the Federal Government created by an Act of Congress on May 18, 1933. In asking Congress to create TVA, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for "a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of private enterprise." He said, "It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation, and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the nation."

TVA serves an area in the Southeast made up of parts of seven states—Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, south-western Kentucky, western Virginia, western North Carolina, and north-western Georgia. It includes the watershed of the Tennessee River system and surrounding territory in the TVA power service system, approximately ninety-one thousand square miles. The agency is headed by a three-member board of directors appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The president designates a chairman from among the three directors. Directors are appointed for staggered terms of nine years each. It is more than just an electric utility!

The nonpower functions still exist though many have limited rolls. These are funded through congressional appropriations, and everyone is aware of the reductions in funding that began in the Reagan administration. Over the years, these many TVA programs have changed and in recent years have encountered endless reorganizations and funding cuts.

The Cultural Resources Program technical staff consists of two archaeologists, one historical architect, one historian, one oral historian, and one curator. Considering the extensive land base of TVA, this small staff obviously does not have the ability to participate in all cultural resource opportunities. The use of consultants and contractors does help. In archaeology, considerable reliance is placed upon various universities.

The primary function of this office is to administer TVA's compliance obligations as mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act. These activities center around TVA facilities, some of which are now considered historic, and on TVA projects which impact adjacent historic or cultural resources. The Cultural Resources office also provides limited technical assistance to communities and organizations in the Valley in matters of historic preservation.

Within TVA there are other programs with which the Cultural Resources Program has worked with over the years on joint projects. These include such programs as Community Development, Economic Development, Tourism, and Townlift (a forerunner of the National Trust and State Mainstreet Program). It is in these joint efforts that our program has had involvement with communities.

More recently, there has been a growing awareness and economic development of cultural and historic-based tourism. I am also representing the TVA Tourism program, which is administered by Gale Trussell. This program is very limited in what it can do for each individual community. Much of its function is coordinating with local, regional, and state tourism organizations. A number of tourism-related brochures have been published for distribution to assist communities in establishing programs. These include "Small Towns Who Have Successfully Used Tourism as Economic Development," "Tips on Promoting a Tourist Attraction," "Marketing By Direct Mail," "Six Ways to Package Scenery In Rural Areas," "Effective Promotional Brochures, How to Develop a Self-Guiding Photography Tour of Your Area" and "Using Photographs in Travel Marketing Activities." Copies of these brochures can be obtained by contacting the following:

Tourism Program
Tennessee Valley Authority
Old City Hall, 2C 41B
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902-1499

I am a historical architect and have been with TVA since 1979. Besides extensive work with TVA's facilities, I have traveled throughout the region and have an awareness of the diverse cultures and architecture. I have worked with many communities and organizations providing assistance related to historic preservation. My technical assistance included structural evaluations of historic buildings, preparing restoration guidelines, establishing local history museums, planning historic walking tours, and establishing boundaries for historic districts. Obviously, I was unable to become fully involved in any one project, but many times, only a single phone call or a field trip can be the catalyst to get a project on its feet. Sometimes that first push is all it takes. Other times it's not enough. It is the initiative of the community or local interest group that determines the success of their project.


Dixon Springs, Tennessee

This small rural community listed on the National Register of Historic Places was impacted by a major early TVA construction project. As mitigation for this adverse impact, TVA worked with the citizens on a program to enhance their awareness of the historic significance of the community. Historic research on the early families and their properties was compiled. Using this material with photographs, I prepared a forty eight page pictorial booklet which was printed and distributed.

Britton Log House, Cedar Creek/Bear Creek Project

A number of log houses within an area that was to become a reservoir were determined eligible for the National Register. As mitigation, TVA agreed to dismantle these and make them available for public use. The Britton Log House was one of these. I prepared the historic structures report for it and supervised the dismantling and re-erection of the log house. The work was performed by a youth work corps, the YACC, which was sponsored by TVA. The log house was moved to the Helen Keller birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to become part of the museum complex.

Rogersville, Tennessee

This east Tennessee community has seen TVA presence over the years. The TVA Tourism Program helped develop a promotional brochure used during the 1982 Knoxville Worlds Fair and assisted in the promotion of their Heritage Days Festival. As part of mitigation for the impact of a large nearby TVA project, TVA restored the historic Kenner house to be used for community functions. In 1986 Rogersville was one of three east Tennessee historic communities participating in the workshop "Bringing Tourists to Town: How Historic Resources Can Help." This was sponsored by the National Trust and TVA.

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

This small community lies adjacent to the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and at the base of the historic Cumberland Gap. In the nineteenth century, the iron industry was developed, and a stone iron furnace stack still remains. The TVA Tourism Program has worked with the community to develop a tourism program. We participated in meetings with coordinating groups to develop a historic preservation program. TVA, the National Park Service, students in the historic preservation program at Middle Tennessee State University, and local groups collaborated resulting in a walking tour, a preservation program, and a National Register Historic District nomination.

TVA does have the potential for contributing to historic preservation and tourism efforts. However, it is limited in what it can do by its small staff (and large area of influence). Success depends largely on the initiatives of the local groups involved, using the limited TVA technical assistance in the most effective way.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008