Visitors to the Cades Cove Museum, located in the Thompson-Brown House in Maryville, soon will notice something new atop the historic structure: a metal roof to replace the rotting cedar shakes that had been in place for decades.
The Cades Cove Museum is operated by the Cades Cove Preservation Association, which leases the building from Blount County and has entered into an agreement with the county to fund vital repairs to preserve and protect the house, believed to have been constructed in the first quarter of the 19th century by William Thompson. The Rev. William Beard Brown purchased the home in 1867.
Stephen Weber, president of CCPA, said, “The roof’s been leaking for a long time. In the foyer upstairs, we have an old washtub that collects water when it drips in, so we decided it was time to do something. We went into our fundraising mode, and we have enough right now to do the roof without having to go into our general account.”
Heartland Roofing won the bid for replacing the roof. Weber said Wednesday that the old shakes from the front porch and back porch have been removed and tar paper put down. “They found the boards that still had the saw marks from where they were originally sawed and put up there,” he said. “Hopefully within the next two or three weeks, we’ll have it done. Once they get everything taken off and prepared, it will be pretty easy to put the metal on.”
Cades Cove Museum Director Gloria Motter said, “We’re going with the roof as the building had in the early 1900s. Once the roof is on, we’ll work on replacing the windows.”
Thus far, funds have been raised through generous donations by CCPA members and a few non-members with no outside funding.
Jim Motter, public relations/communications officer with CCPA, is serving as project manager for the restoration efforts.
“Heartland Roofing has done a terrific job,” he said. “They’ve got about three-quarters of the old shakes off and thrown in the dumpster. Most of the shakes were in pretty rough shape — they were rotted.” He said Weber is sorting through to see if any could be salvaged for use in fundraising efforts.
The decision for a metal roof rather than replacing the shakes was made for the extra durability and is part of the home’s history. Motter said when the house was restored to its earliest beginnings in the 1970s, shakes replaced the metal roof that had been in place since around the 1930s. “Wooden shakes are hard to seal off. They leak pretty quick once you get them up there,” he explained.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, which was consulted before proceeding. “Now, the repairs have to last longer because of the cost,” Motter said. “They recommended going to the metal roof instead of the cedar shakes because of the longevity. A leaky roof only lasts so long and then the whole thing has to be ripped off. We can understand why Blount County didn’t have the budget for all this stuff.
“We’re running a museum out of this thing,” he said. “We want it to look good, we want it to look like a log house, but we still want it to be energy efficient so we can afford to be in here.”
The chimneys will be capped because they are no longer in use. “We have weather coming down through there and critters coming down and we can’t stop them, so if we cap it off, we won’t have to worry about that,” Motter said. “And it will make the old place more energy efficient.”
Weber said CCPA has a five-year plan for restoring the Thompson-Brown House. The roof is only the first step.
“Once we get that done, we’ll be focusing on getting the windows replaced and a little bit of electrical upgrade,” he said. “Then we’ll go into fundraising mode and address the heat and air. There are some logs that need to be stabilized due to water damage. Hopefully the fundraising keeps going so we can get these things done.”
CCPA raises funds through the sale of products, donations and membership fees. Currently, a “yard sale” of gently used donated items continues on the grounds during open hours. Special events, such as the Cades Cove Homecoming event scheduled for Aug. 28, also raises funds through vendor space rentals as well as product sales.
CCPA originally planned on an $80,000 budget to fund the projects, but that was before the pandemic hit and will likely rise. “It will take an effort to reach that,” Weber said. “We hope when people see what we’re doing, they will make donations, including in-kind contributions from businesses for materials or labor. Hopefully this will encourage people to get involved and preserve this building for the history of Blount County. This is a Blount County gem just as much as it is a home for Cades Cove Preservation Association.”
The Cades Cove Museum, filled with historic artifacts once owned by the people who lived in Cades Cove, is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 1004 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, adjacent to the Blount County Justice Center. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Learn more at www.cadescovepreservation.com.
The new topper is the result of a collaboration between Blount County Government, which owns the property, and CCPA, a Tennessee nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, which has been informally leasing the space for its offices and the Cades Cove Museum since 2005. The formal written agreement with CCPA to lease the Thompson-Brown House for $1 per year was approved by the Blount County Commission at its Nov. 21, 2019, meeting. The agreement states that “CCPA shall have the responsibility for the preservation, restoration, use and maintenance of the premises. Specifically, CCPA shall plan any restoration, shall execute and let contracts for restoration and shall distribute funds for the restoration and maintenance, provided disbursement of funds shall comply with the provision of any grants or donations at all times. Any such restoration or maintenance projects shall require final approval by Blount County mayor.” Blount County retains ownership of the property and any improvements that are made.
Having the formal agreement in place allows CCPA to move forward with vital repairs through its own fundraising efforts, thereby saving Blount County taxpayers the cost.
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said, “We’ve worked very well with the Cades Cove Preservation Association. They have provided valuable insight into our history, and we continue to have a great partnership with them and will for years to come. Replacing the roof on the Thompson-Brown House helps preserve the integrity of this special building.”