EXCLUSIVE: team begins work restoring Sabine Hill in Elizabethto - WNCT

EXCLUSIVE: team begins work restoring Sabine Hill in Elizabethton

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ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL) -

An historic home once doomed for destruction is about to experience a million dollar re-birth.

Despite being built in 1815 and standing to this day as treasure trove of history, Sabine Hill in Elizabethton was targeted for demolition a few years ago to make way for condos.

Residents purchased the property from the developer and then sold it to the Tennessee Historical Commission.   Then, in 2012, the Tennessee General Assembly approved $1 million to restore the home and open it to the public as an extension of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area.

Recently, a team of architects, archaeologists, geophysicists, and historians spent several days beginning the process of developing a restoration plan for Sabine Hill.   They dug in the dirt, inspected the interior and exterior of the home, took hundreds of photos, and asked lots of questions.

"The whole site is surrounded with mysteries that no one has ever clarified,"  said Frank Sparkman, project architect, Sparkman and Associates.  "But in general for a 200 year old building, it's pretty sound.  It has weathered well."

The white framed house near one of  Elizabethton's busiest intersection was built by General Nathaniel Taylor and his family.   A prominent figure in the War of 1812 and the first Sheriff of Carter County, Taylor didn't get to enjoy the home.   He died before its competition.  But his wife, family, and slaves lived on the property which served as a hub for a massive estate.    Those people and their stories are what the team of history hunters hope to understand and interpret for visitors to the home after restoration is complete.

"Our primary interest is trying to understand the people and the landscape they used here," said Elizabeth Kellar DeCorse, Associate Director, Archeological Research Lab, Dept. of Anthropology, UT Knoxville.  "Part of it is detective work, trying to find out what was really here during the period of significance which has been defined as 1814 to 1821."

There's no target date for completion of the restoration and opening date of Sabine Hill to the public.   But that's not curbed the enthusiasm for Jennifer Bauer, park director at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area which will oversee management of the home and interpretation of the site as an 1815 residence.

"Hopefully we'll find out what their lives were like here in the early 1800's when they were trying to survive here on what was nearly the frontier at that time," Bauer said.  "We hope to be able to put all those pieces together."

News Channel 11 was given exclusive access when the Sabine Hill restoration team began preliminary work on the property.   Click on the video player to see the report.

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