Bringing back history in Sullivan County

Bringing back history

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A piece of Sullivan County history was almost lost before a generous donation came into the possession of the Exchange Place in Kingsport.

Two cabins built in the 1790s are slowly coming back to life at the historic settlement, but bringing the past back to life is no easy task.

You can't help but notice something new that's very old going up at the Exchange Place. It's the future home of the Burrow Museum.

In reality, the two log cabins are the oldest in Sullivan County and could have been carted away to somewhere else. "This oldest house in Sullivan County probably the longs would have been somewhere up in Pennsylvania now. There was somebody who wanted the buy just the logs themselves and move them and if we didn't take on this project this part of Sullivan County history would have been gone," says Tom Lane, an Exchange Place volunteer.

But now, thanks to a master restorer, those two cabins are becoming one, which is no easy task. "It's taken quite a bit of labor and sweat and money. This is not cheap to do. These people need help if they can get it, all the donations they can get," restoration expert Mike Faust said.

The Exchange Place is not city-owned, so everything they do to preserve and interpret local history is done as a non-profit. "Exchange Place is a non-profit organization maintained and operated by volunteers and funded by donations, fundraisers, memberships and grants," Lane said.

So getting a professional to bring this structure back to life is not as simple as it sounds. "It takes a lot more labor than it does normal house building. It takes a little more skill, it's a little bit more dangerous, it's harder work, and it's just a little bit different knowhow of the old ways," Faust says.

Old logs, new logs and skill are coming together and should be complete by year's end. "We're doing the dovetails and the saddle notches now. Knowing that what's important about log cabins is making sure that when the logs go up all of them are fairly even when they get to the top," Faust said.

A piece of history saved by dedicated volunteers and brought back to life one piece at a time.

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