Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop Papers
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We have heard from a number of State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) and National Park Service (NPS) planners about their perspectives on the problems of recognizing and planning for the protection and nomination of a number of cultural resources associated with the development of the southern Appalachian mountains. I have had the opportunity to point out that there exists at least one overlooked and largely historical experience, varying in degree, in the entire multi-state region. It was one in which the forces of industrial expansion in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century led to the extraction of mineral fuel to feed the increasingly voracious appetite of industrial capitalism to run railroads and blast furnaces. We can believe that the by-product of such experience was the transformation—some say gentrification—of an entire American subculture from relative agrarian independence, self-sufficiency, and romantic primitiveness to acquiescent obedience and reliance upon the industrial order. It is certainly plausible that wherever the extraction of coal took place in the entire cool-producing region of the Appalachians, there existed a complex array of resources, from the company or coal town to individual resources. Among these were coal tipples, dynamite houses, mine shafts, prison stockades and guard towers, beehive coke ovens, slag heaps, railroads and railroad stations, round houses, steam-driven electrical generators, schools, company stores, churches, and the domestic architecture of industrialism that is manifest in the coal miner's company house—the type in which the coal miner's daughter, Loretta Lynn, was to Butcher holler born.

Let me suggest here that there are other common experiences that confirm that the Appalachian region is unique in American history. There are also cultural resources associated with these experiences that can be, and should be, addressed by preservationists planners in a multi-state context. Succinctly, in addition to coal mining, these regionally common experiences are the development of motor tourism, pre- and TVA-hydroelectric development, and the history of the urban Appalachian African-American city. I do not wish here to give the impression that this brief litany is comprehensive, only to suggest that common experience could result in mutual action.

The tourist industry, typified today in east Tennessee by the attractions in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, had its initial development from 1910 to 1945 and was closely tied to the evolution and foundation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While many today may decry the excesses of contemporary tourist enticements, underneath the ubiquitous, plastic, pseudo-hillbilly images are a number of resources that can be considered cultural because they are extant examples of early tourist development. These resource types include diners, cafes, tourist convenience stores, tea rooms, early electric signs, out-buildings, service stations, and motor courts sporting various architectural affectations. Ed Trout, Historian at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, knows for example of a motor court in Cherokee, North Carolina in which all units have wigwam-shaped facades. [2]

1926 view of a mining camp at Eagen, Tennessee. Source: Tennessee Division of Mines 32nd Annual Report

Pre-TVA hydroelectric sites are also an other resource that may well be common to the multistate Appalachian mountain region. In Tennessee, the SHPO has successfully completed a Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) in which there are twenty-seven such sites, all constructed in the period of initial private-sector and municipally funded electrification. Twenty-one of these were deemed worthy of the protection of National Register listing. Resources ranged from small gravity to monumental and sweeping curvilinear dams, small unadorned poured concrete to more immense and elaborately architecturally enhanced powerhouses, water diversion mechanisms, early power transmission towers, entire man-made lakes, and ancillary office and residential buildings. Topography and river size often determined the proportions of the sites, all of which were developed between 1901 and 1933. They represent the change from island cities to the new industrial order, from small independent providers of electricity to larger regional corporations to the gigantic monopoly by TVA in 1939, Tennessee Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Other examples were produced for industrial needs, such as the mammoth curvilinear Calderwood dam which provided electricity for the reduction of aluminum at Alcoa, Tennessee. The more massive TVA developments, such as Norris Dam and its sisters in the seven-state TVA area, would, like those pre-TVA examples, would constitute a common experiential base for multistate survey, inventory, and nomination activities.

View of a tourist court in Gatlinburg, built in 1940 photo by the author

The history of the urban black in the cities of the region could likewise be considered a common Appalachian experience. Resources would include blocks of "traditional" shotgun houses, commercial buildings, schools, churches, parks, and libraries. In Tennessee, a study on Knoxville's urban African-American experience and associated resource base was carried out by the Planning Section of the SHPO. Ironically, many of the precious few extant structures associated with the black community in Knoxville were destroyed by the onset of integration and urban renewal. Both tended to draw blacks out of their "traditional" community, and so destroyed the commercial and social life that developed in the days of segregation. Recent private preservation and restoration projects in Mechanicsville, the National Register listed and historically black Knoxville neighborhood, had been frustrated by the illegal practice of red-lining. Concerted neighborhood action, however, led to a cessation of this unlawful practice.

Plant of the Tennessee Eastern Electric Company on the Nolichucky River, nine miles south of Greeneville Source: Tennessee Division of Geology bulletin 17 (1914).

One of the reasons so few of these kinds of cultural resources are now in the National Register stems from the problem that the criteria didn't seem to include coal resources. Does this mean we therefore need special criteria? Will we have to produce an exclusive criteria for heretofore overlooked resource types such as coal tipples, coal towns, motor courts, diners, and service stations early hydroelectric stations, historically African-American neighborhoods and schools? Put another way, will they continue to be excluded as they were in the past quarter century when they were apparently rendered invisible by the criteria. As the National Historic Preservation approaches its silver anniversary, the criteria have remained consistent, but the idea that such resources as those described above are worthy of planning and preservation is a relatively new notion. Were coal towns, pre-TVA sites, shotgun houses, and tourist attractions factored in when the criteria were developed? Can existing criteria become a device to exclude resources whose significance is not addressed by conventional guidelines? Will criteria be made so exacting that it will be impossible to nominate resources? Isn't this what has happened so far?

The question is not just one of simple criteria, nor that examples of these resources are dwindling (and they are), nor that they have not fit into the preservationists lexicon nontraditional concept of "cultural resource." The question isn't so much that as professionals we are not able to recognize the regional scope of the shared historical experience, because we do. Nor is it whether or not we will rate them for what they are, the vestiges of common, significant, historical, cultural, and ecological experiences in the southern Appalachian mountain region. [3]

The real question is what are we cultural resource management professionals going to do about it now? Well, let's begin by asking what can we do? We can plan; we can survey and inventory, and we can nominate properties to the National Register of Historic Places. We can publish our results to increase scholarly interest and a heightened sense of public awareness for and appreciation about another aspect of the local, state, and regional past.

Can we justify the study and preservation of the archaeological remains of coal town sites, early motor courts, and black neighborhoods, etc.? Can we create a justification for protection when we produce a context—resources are important because we say so, and we can say so because we substantiate our claims with the historical record. It's our job as professionals engaged in cultural resource management. More to the point, why haven't we? Because of a lack of resources to nominate? Perhaps because of a lack of professional consciousness on our parts? No, it's because of something less self-evident but more profound. I'm talking about an innocent and subconscious class bias on the part of many professional preservationists (I know I have been culpable) that has for the longest time, in my view, credulously shaped a National Register profile into an exclusive enumeration of the finest, and best, colonial era and antebellum houses, civil war "hospitals," late nineteenth century millionaires' mansions, and commercial districts. In so doing, a physical record has been thus preserved that limits our vision of the past to prestigious white males, their politics and shrewdness in business, and the wars they fought. Nothing is said of the not-famous, such as the common miner or his family. They simply don't exist; they simply never existed in the world that was said to have mattered. This is an intellectual posture that must be overcome so that the examples of miners houses or coke ovens can be considered as significant for what they are, instead of for what they are not. If they are not significant, then why are we here at this workshop in this Appalachian setting? If these are important now, why weren't they important before? Because, whenever we preserve history we do so with a subconscious sense of transcendent meaning and continuity in the preserver's expression of dominant values, values that for better or worse work as blinders, hiding alternate possibilities from our historical consciousness. No matter how limited or particular any given preservation project, we place it in a broader and grander context in which what we do and say has meaning and makes a difference. Any coherent act of preservation is sanctioned by an inference of professional understanding which shapes our work ideologically, morally, and politically. It remains to be seen if our professional understanding can result in broadening—perhaps even refocusing—our efforts to include the kinds of resources associated with a variety of historical experiences in the southeastern Appalachian mountain region.

Why not think big? How big? Let me propose a regional effort to produce a context, a survey, an inventory, and nomination of related resources in one large, regional Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF). [4] Of course, such an effort should be supervised and funded by the National Park Service, (from whom all blessings flow) not out of the states' annual Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) allotment. A standard Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) could be developed between the various SHPOs and review boards in the region and the NPS. SHPO staffing and work priorities would have to be adjusted accordingly, while, funding might be allocated by virtue of the states' contexts exhibiting the probable absolute number of resources in the various states. For example, if such an effort were to be directed at coal resources, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky would most likely receive the lion's share, followed by Tennessee, then Georgia, Alabama, South and North Carolina. Another scheme would have to be formulated for other thematically related resource bases, for instance the tourist industry or pre-TVA resources, or Civil War monuments of the period 1865 to 1920. The actual context itself could be produced in each of the pertinent states and combined as chapters in a statement of justification to fund coordinated survey, inventory, and nomination procedures. I feel certain a uniform format for such a contextual study could be developed; indeed, it probably exists already in the MPDF format. In the end, it should be possible to produce a regional MPDF (RMPDF) as the finished product. It may be that some preservation planners have already labeled this kind of thinking as altogether too grandiose, but I believe it is a plausible idea which deserves serious consideration. It certainly would be a new direction and maybe usher in an era of interstate cooperation when thematically-linked resources are common to states otherwise thought to be singularly extraordinary in their historic experience. In this era of rapidly escalating public debt, dwindling financial support, and shifting priorities, it also might be a means to get a bigger bang out of the cultural resource management buck.

There is still the question about criteria for nominating or at least determining the eligibility of previously overlooked resources. At this point, I would like to specifically suggest the following evaluative framework for use with wooden buildings or vernacular-industrial structures typical of mining or company towns. Perhaps it may prove helpful in bridging the chasm between social and cultural history, traditional historic preservation thinking, and the recognition of vernacular structures as historical monuments. It provides the following eight priorities to evaluate criteria for determining significance, asking in order of importance, if it can be determined if the building or structure is important:

1) It has potential for demonstrating the fact of or evolution of mining or of a mining village;

2) It is important to the history of industrially supplied domestic architecture or coal/coke processing on the local and regional level;

3) It is symbolic of major regional and local cultural ecological and change;

4) It represents a particular method of construction, such as box-housing or beehive coke ovens;

5) It is representative of particular changes in settlement patterns or housing types found in the Cumberland Plateau (coal regions of southern Appalachia) from 1880 to 1930;

6) It is structurally sound;

7) It is representative of a particular period or broad historical development;

8) It is representative of the socioeconomic status of its owner-builder.

After the structure or structures are evaluated against these interrogative criteria, they could be placed on a priority list with the more areas of significance listed affirmatively, the greater the degree of importance; then the following list of preservation options may be resorted to, the treatment being determined by the degree of significance. These options allow the cultural resource management specialist the flexibility to carry out or a variety of treatments to protect endangered resources on a number of levels. The options are:

1) preservation/stabilization;

2) rehabilitation;

3) photographic recordation, strictly according to Historic American Building Survey (HABS)/Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) standards;

4) scale drawing following HABS/HAER standards;

5) nomination to the National Register of Historic Places;

6) architectural element salvage;

7) relocations

8) demolition

9) natural deterioration;

10) no treatment. [5]

Options 1 and 2 could involve Investment Tax Credit (ITC) certification; 1 through 6 will also allow the nomination of a particular resource, or class of resources, to the National Register of Historic Places. In the case of the SHPO who does not own any resource, these alternatives can be suggested as mitigative options in 106 questions, while survey efforts would call for the virtual blanket photographic recordation of nearly all resources. Additionally, the criteria may aid the specialist whose function is to survey or nominate resources to the National Register to make determinations of eligibility. In any case, the cultural resource management specialist has a diversified set of preservation, evaluation, action, and protection options. These same criteria and options could be utilized in a regional MPDF effort directed at coal towns and mining resources in the Appalachian region where coal mining developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

As cultural resource management planners for the historic built-environment, the real challenge is the anticipation of what the sense of the past will be as a result of our efforts and decisions today. In what ways do our decisions affect the existence of a class of cultural resources and the history they represent? How will our judgments be regarded by future public historians resource managers, park historians, and preservationists? Will future generations, as a result of our efforts now, see consensus, dramatic conflict, continuity or change in their past? Will they see coal mining, or the initial stages of the tourist business, or railroad expansion, or early hydroelectric development, as an historical experience at all? As one thinker suggests, "our anticipation of a future need of a past with reference points supplied by us is one of the few ways in which a dialogue can be developed with posterity. Our successors may not like what we offer, [but unless we anticipate the future needs of the past] they will doubtless interpret it differently...." [6]

It may be that in the case of coal, we as cultural resource management planning professionals have acquiesced in the eradication of buildings and structures that we may have considered the monuments of unhappy or depraved era, something to be overlooked because it was not "architecture." By ignoring these material cultural remains of common Appalachian historical experiences, we help increase the probability that the future will be void of a material culture heritage. The built environment representative of the common experiences of entire generations of Appalachian people will slip into the oblivion of a society contaminated by a kind of historical Alzheimer's disease, with equally as tragic an outcome. The challenge to preservationists

is to preserve the meaning of the way of life which buildings represent to those who have worked and lived in them, as well as the more abstract and formal qualities based on knowledge of architectural and technological history. [7]

It is for us to decide, to formulate the coming agenda. As George Orwell admonished: Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.


1 The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the thinking of his employer, the Tennessee Historical Commission/State Historic Preservation Officer, nor the National Park Service, Southeast Regional Office.

2 The Tennessee SHPO Planning Section is currently producing a study unit and MPDF on the development of motor-tourism in Tennessee's southeastern corridor, 1910-1945.

3 It may be that these experiences are not so common to the Appalachian region, or that variations on a theme exist between states within the region, but it can't be demonstrated until study, survey, inventory activities are undertaken.

4 This kind of approach has already been utilized by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, "Coal Mining in the Big South Fork Area of Kentucky and Tennessee," (1990).

5 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, "Structural Treatment Plan for National Register Eligible Architectural Structures of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area," March, 1986, 3-4.

6 Peter J. Fowler, "Archeology, the Public and the Sense of the Past," Lowenthal and Binnery, eds., The Past Before Us: Why Do We Save It? (London: Temple Smith Limited, 1981), 68.

7 Tamara K. Hareven and Randolph Langenbach, "Living Places, Work Places and Historical Identity," Lowenthal and Binney, eds., Our Past Before Us: Why Do We Save It? (London: Temmple Smith Limited, 1981), 121.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008