Isaac Anderson's log cabin moving from Knox County to Blount

Isaac Anderson’s log cabin moving from Knox County to Blount

By Amy Beth Miller, The Daily Times -- Reprinted with permission

*This story appeared in The Daily Times on Sept. 11, 2017

The two-story log cabin where Isaac Anderson lived before founding Maryville College nearly 200 years ago was slated for demolition until last week, when work began to move the structure from Knox County to Blount.

The cabin was built in 1802, shortly after Anderson’s father moved the family from Virginia to Tennessee, and in 2010 the nonprofit preservation group Knox Heritage named the cabin one of its “Fragile 15,” what it considers the most threatened historic structures and places.

A large log cabin Anderson built on the property for his first Union Academy school, sometimes called the Log College, has already been torn down.

Located in part of a wooded area behind the clubhouse for the Shannon Valley Farms subdivision, the cabin that housed the Anderson family was overgrown, unused and rotting under siding.

Under pressure from Knox County code officials, the homeowners association for Shannon Valley Farms likely would have demolished the cabin along Creek Rock Lane within the next couple of months, according to HOA Board Member Patrick Klepper. “Our plan was to bring in some dumpsters and haul it away,” he said.

Although the HOA and Knox Heritage had tried to generate interest in the cabin for years, estimates to haul it offsite and restore it have been about $60,000 to $80,000.

Maryville College alumnus Cole Piper serves on the board for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and brought the cabin to the attention of Director Bob Patterson.

Once Piper explained to him the significance of Anderson, the Heritage Center director said, “I wanted to make this happen.”

A Presbyterian minister, Anderson was called to be pastor of New Providence Presbyterian Church in Maryville in 1811 and moved his academy here, later founding a seminary that would become Maryville College.

“It would have been a tragedy for the home of the founder of Maryville College to go by the wayside,” Piper said.

He was on vacation in New York this summer when he heard through Maryville College that the cabin could soon be lost. “We had to move pretty quickly,” he said.

An anonymous donor has provided funding to start the process of dismantling the cabin and hauling the pieces to the grounds of the Heritage Center, and a fundraising campaign is being planned for the cabin’s restoration.

“We’ve got to raise some money,” Piper said. “Otherwise it’s going to sit there as a pile of logs.”

Maryville College has been interested in the cabin for years, but funding to move, restore and maintain the structure and how to make it safe and useful on the campus have been obstacles.

“It really didn’t make sense to have the cabin on the Maryville College campus,” said Piper, who has severed as an adjunct professor and in other roles at the college since retiring from Proffitt’s department store.

The college’s president called the current plan “the best outcome imaginable,” a sentiment echoed by Klepper of the HOA.

“Not only will an important artifact of Tennessee history be preserved, but it will be located where it will receive the most exposure to a wide audience,” MC President Dr. Tom Bogart said. “Isaac Anderson was not only the founder of Maryville College but also a prominent figure in education, religion and civic life.”

The Heritage Center plans to locate the cabin out front, angled to face the road. “It’s going to be open at no charge during the day,” Patterson said.

“We could use this as a focal point to introduce early education in Blount County,” Piper said.

Bringing it back to life

“You hardly ever see a full two-story,” said Freddie Haun of Walland, the log cabin expert who along with two others is working to bring the structure to Blount County.

Haun started working on log structures with the Barn Event Center of the Smokies in Townsend and has worked on all but one of the historic buildings at the Heritage Center.

It’s not the type of work a lot of people do, he said, and when he isn’t restoring old log structures he’s replacing logs in new homes.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” Haun said of the Anderson cabin, but he’s confident it can be restored.

About half of the 60 logs rotted beneath siding, but Haun already has his eye on two other cabins where he might find replacement logs.

The cabin’s fireplace is marble, which Haun notes would have been convenient to find in East Knoxville at the time.

Haun and the other workers began taking the cabin apart last week, first removing the siding and interior paneling. They will document every piece with photographs, number them with plastic tags, and then stack them under cover at the Heritage Center for safekeeping until they can work on the restoration next year.

If any tags should come off, the photos will allow Haun to identify where everything belongs. “Each log has its own character,” he said.

“It’s like playing with Lincoln logs, but they’re oversized,” he said. “It makes you think.”

Rebuilding the cabin will take two or three weeks once the work starts, depending on the weather, Haun estimates.

Between the logs, they will place manmade chinking that expands with the wood, to replace the original mud used to fill the gaps between logs.

They’ll replace the flooring that was added in Knoxville in the 1960s with barn wood.

In restoring old cabins, Haun said, “You bring the house back alive.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.