San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


In our blind ambition to get from Point A to Point B within a specifc period of time, we sometimes whizz past the small and smallish towns along America's byways, without a clue to the treasures they contain. I am one of those guilty travelers, and the "Golf Capital of Tennessee" is just one such example.
County Seat of Cumberland County, Tennessee

Former Lazy Dazer, Sharon Naismith, a Texas-to-Tennessee transplant, whom I had met very briefly three years ago, graciously, generously, patiently spent a day showing me the treasures of Crossville, the town where she, husband Bob and canine pals have put down retirement roots.
When it came to the Civil War, Cumberland County's loyalties were divided almost equally. Crossville saw men from the same family, cousins, brothers, uncles, fighting for the "other side"; this Civil War Memorial lists many veterans with the same surname on each plaque.
Seriously cute, this is the Tennessee State Highway Patrol's substation in Crossville. All you need is a chair, desk, phone and computer, right? And "facilities." This'll work!
Until last year, Cumberland County Courthouse had a "Free Speech Zone" on its front lawn that once included a statute of the "Flying Spaghetti Monster." Alas, because of the controversy that erupted following its display, the courthouse is no longer an anything zone. Google "Flying Spaghetti Monster" for entertaining history and tales about this spoof on intelligent design.
You want to know whether you'll be late for your arraignment? I guess it will depend on which street you're standing on!!
The vintage Palace Theater on Main Street has been restored to accommodate classic movies, community and school events and live music performances that Sharon tells me are enthusiastically attended by townsfolk.
CRAB (as in crabapple) ORCHARD STONE
This colorful sandstone is also found in Arizona where it's known as "picture rock." However, I've only seen it there in souvenir shops. Who knows? There's a good chance it was actually quarried in Tennessee. In Crossville, it's a ubiquitous building material, quarried locally in ..... wait for it ......... Crab Orchard, Tennessee!
It isn't just used for pretty trim and ornament. Crab Orchard stone is a rare and sturdy, dense and fine-grained sandstone that lends itself to construction of entire buildings. It was used predominately in the construction of the town's courthouse and the Cumberland Homesteads -- more on that later.
These Crossville buildings weren't just thrown together, slab on slab. The masonry of these buildings is imaginative and unique, put together by creative artisans and expert masons in a variety of designs and in a wide range of color and geometric patterns.
Then (1935) -- Cumberland Mountain State Park Bridge, built by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew with absolutely NO experience in concrete or masonry work.
Now. As you can see, built to last.

Implemented by FDR in 1932, this controversial project provided land in Cumberland County for over 250 impoverished families and created jobs for others who built roads, worked in the stone quarries and helped construct the homes. There were over 100 such projects scattered across the country, but the one in Cumberland County was the largest.
The Homestead Tower originally housed offices for the administration of the Project. The tower itself was filled with 50,000 gallons of water that supplied water to schools in the immediate vicinity. The building now houses a small museum showcasing 1930's artifacts, news articles, photographs and histories of the original homesteaders.
The homesteader families were selected by government invitation based on rigid, guidelines that required applicants to be of "high character, ability, honesty, and willingness to work and cooperate with the government..." To insure the success of the project, the government set up a committee to investigate each applicant thoroughly. Only those meeting those stringent requirements were selected. These were out-of-work timber and sawmill workers, displaced coal miners, people who had lost their farms in the Great Depression. The families were expected to participate in the construction of their own homes, thus learning new skills and creating new employment opportunities.
This Museum Home has been fully restored and furnished to reflect design details, furnishings and appliances in use at the time. Sad to admit: I remember some of this stuff well, especially the button jar! (That was most likely the introduction to my collection addiction. Problem is, I've graduated from buttons to rocks!!)
The round thing on top of the modern "ice box" is the motor for one of those new-fangled electric ones!
Look at this chimney closely.
You'll see the inventive way rain was kept from putting out the warming fires inside the home. See the vertical gutters? There are openings at the top of the chimney that steer rainwater away from the chimney's interior and redirect it down the exterior gutters instead.
The land has been subdivided over the years, and new homes are being built on what was once spacious, rolling farmland, but at least the entire Homesteads area has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the surviving Homestead homes have been enlarged and remodeled. The addition to this home is a modest enclosed porch.
Only a handful remain as built. The owners of this one fill the evergreen "basket" on their front lawn with colorful "eggs" every Spring.
Thank you Sharon for showing me around Crossville and for filling me with wonderful information and new vistas. Your hometown pride sure made for an enjoyable day, even if we didn't visit one single golf course! Oh darn -- guess that means I'll have to return!