Monday, October 17, 2016

Historic Places Around Rockwood Tennessee

During our exploratory drive through parts of Roane County Tennessee, we spent a bit of time in Rockwood checking out 4 different historic places, all very different from each other… 

As we approached Rockwood on US Hwy. 70, we diverted onto Post Oak Springs Road to the intersection with Old US 70.  The Post Oak Springs Christian Church was built in 1876.  This is an independent, non-denominational Christian church, associated with the Restoration Movement.  It is said to be the oldest Restoration Movement Christian Church in Tennessee.  The congregation was formed in 1812 and this was the 3rd building occupied by the church.  Services are currently held nearby in a newer facility…

The Restoration Movement is a Christian movement that began on the United States frontier during the Second Great Awakening (1790–1840) of the early 19th century.  This movement sought to reform the church from within with the goal "the unification of all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament."  It has been described as the "oldest ecumenical movement in America".  Since the mid-20th century, members of these churches do not identify as Protestant but simply as Christian.   There are 3 main branches in the US: the Churches of Christ; the unaffiliated Christian Church/Church of Christ congregations, and; the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Rockwood Post Office is a Colonial Revival style Federal building constructed by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) in 1937.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.  The grounds are landscaped with original Japanese Hollies.

We should have gone inside!  Research revealed that this post office features a terra-cotta relief sculpture by New York artist Christian Heinrich.  It’s the only ceramic post office decoration in the state.  Entitled ‘Wildlife’, the seven by three-foot panel weighs approximately three hundred pounds and depicts a family of three deer.

OK…This photo at the National Register of Historic Places listing in Wikipedia for Roane County, allegedly shows the historic Molyneaux Chevrolet Dealership/Fire Department facility.  It totally threw me off base on this search and posting.  First of all, the address on this building is 230 and it’s on the wrong street as well!  On the other hand, it obviously is the old showroom and it is better looking than the correct structure turned out to be…

Laurie and Dawn had taken the photo of this structure at 104 North Chamberlain Street in Rockford.  Even though the address matched the listing, I couldn’t imagine that this was the correct building as per the NRHP.  Well, when I subsequently researched the listing on the actual National Register of Historic Places site, I discovered that the ladies were right.  This was the place!  To see the photos that were originally submitted with the building’s justification for its listing on the NRHP, you can go to

This structure was built in 1923.  It’s constructed from poured concrete.  It was poured in forms with reinforcing rods, which resulted in the block-like pattern.  It was constructed as a single building to house 2 separate operations.  Historically, the fire hall was in the easternmost bay, and the Molyneux Chevrolet Company was located in the 3 western bays.  This building housed the city's first fire engine as well as John Molyneux’ auto business.  That dealership was later recognized as the oldest Chevy dealer in the state. 


Former Union general John T. Wilder noted the iron ore and coal deposits of the Cumberland Plateau region while operating in the area during the Civil War.  After the war, Wilder and Ohio-born Knoxville Iron Company founder Hiram Chamberlain purchased 900 acres at what is now Rockwood.  They selected the location due to the ore and coal resources, the proximity to the Tennessee River and based on an assumption that the encroaching railroads would descend the Plateau at nearby Emory Gap.  The Roane Iron Company was chartered in 1867 and it was producing iron by late 1868…the same year that the town was founded.  The Company closed operations in 1929 but remnants of the operation remain near the edge of town.

This eye-catching Tennessee Highway Patrol building in Rockwood is located on the corner of Kingston Avenue and Nelson Street, actually on the original State Route 1/U.S. Highway 70 in Rockwood.  Built in 1936, the building was used as a sub-station for the Tennessee Highway Patrol until circa 1952 when a new facility was constructed.

This 80 year old highway patrol building is an excellent example of Tennessee's response to the expansion of motorized traffic and the public’s concern for safety along the new and expanding system of highways.  The building is an excellent representation of the use of Crab Orchard stone.  In addition, the Craftsman influence of the building can be seen in the cut stone and use of clay tile roofing.  This building is an example of the huge impact the automobile has had on American culture and life.

As small as this building is, it not only served as a workplace, but also as living quarters for unmarried patrol officers.  The back room of the building was fitted with beds and contained a kitchen and bathroom.  A former patrol officer recalled that this arrangement kept officers’ working day and night.  The front room was used as an office and it’s where they had a desk, did paperwork, and provided tourist information.

This building may look much like the 1936 facility…but it was actually built in 1952 to replace it.  One reason that it looks much like the original building is that it was also built using Crab Orchard Stone.

The ‘new’ building is located on the same piece of land as the original but it was situated so that it faced the ‘new’ US Hwy. 70.  Its back faces the back of the older Highway Patrol building.  After this facility was constructed, the 1936 building was used only for storage.  Later it was abandoned!  Fortunately, local preservationists have ensured that the original building has been restored…and even nicely landscaped. 

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Such a fascinating post, Dave, and I love your photos! When you mentioned the Restoration Movement I knew what you were referring to, because I am a member of the Church of Christ! However, here in Montreal, even with 3.5 million people there are only 3 or 4 congregations. Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope you have a great week. I really enjoy your posts. :)

  2. You were so close us US when you visited Roane County. I recognized the Crab Orchard Stone --since there are many older home and buildings around here made from that... You NEED to visit our area and check out the interesting Homesteads area... We also have a Military Memorial Museum, and of course there is the playhouse and the state park... Come see us!!!!