This post is not about a farm girl from Kansas or what lies over the rainbow. It is about historic restoration in the town of Oliver Springs, Tennessee, which is often referred to as the “The Land of OS.” Oliver Springs is in Anderson County, and it sits just on the other side of Black Oak Ridge from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. For such a small town, it has a more diverse and interesting prehistory/history than most other places within the borders of Tennessee. In its own unique way, it is somewhat comparable to Castalian Springs in Sumner County.
A rather oddball Mississipian site is located in the downtown area of Oliver Springs. Way back in late 1974, this writer had the pleasure of helping Vick Hood and Charlie Faulkner with a controlled surface collection effort on this site. Unfortunately, in subsequent years, the site fell prey to extensive looting. A “No Trespassing” sign has been erected at the site in more recent years, and the Oliver Springs Police Department is located just a few hundred feet away. Clearly, any further attempts to loot this site today would land an artifact dealer or collector in jail within just a few minutes of their arrival, especially being as how there is absolutely no place to conceal an out-of-place truck or car from plain police view at the site. In years past, some members of the Oliver Springs Police Department have been well versed in the history of their town, and they undoubtedly recognize the need to watch this Mississippian site like a red hawk watches for chipmunks.
The people who live in Oliver Springs have always taken the history of their town very seriously, and they are fiercely dedicated to recording it and preserving its physical manifestations. Leadership in historic preservation is provided by the Oliver Springs Historical Society. You may view their website, read about the history of the town, and peruse old photographs of buildings, people, and past street scenes at the following URL:
Oliver Springs is a nice town, but it is not exactly an economic dynamo or a haven for the wealthy today. Funds for historic preservation sometimes run short and need to be replenished, which brings us to the subject of the old Abston Garage, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Abston Garage is a large, rectangular, single-story, red brick building that sits smack dab in the middle of the historic residential district in Oliver Springs. Sorry to say, this writer has no detailed documentary information on this building, but he has driven by and looked at it closely on many occasions. Its architecture suggests that it was constructed (or at least later converted into) a very early 20th century automotive repair shop, possibly with a couple of early gasoline pumps that have long since been removed. At about the same time in Tennessee history, a building somewhat similar to this one served as a garage and filling station in downtown Bethpage, Sumner County, Tennessee. It too is still standing.
For many years in the late 20th century and early 21st century, the Abston Garage was a somewhat dilapidated structure that appeared to be on a downhill path to oblivion as a result of weathering and natural decay. However, in 2008, the Oliver Springs Historical Society made a decision to restore the Abston Garage and turn it into a historical museum and cultural center. The garage property was purchased for this purpose in 2008, and substantial funds were made available to begin construction work, which appears to be oriented towards a combination of both restoration and adaptive reuse. Serious work on the building soon began, and it actually progressed rather nicely. Unfortunately, the project did not have enough funds to reach completion.
Considering the 2008 start date, you have no doubt noticed that the beginning of work on the Abston Garage coincided with the onset of the Great Recession. When economic times are bad, most people and things suffer in one way or another, including historic restoration and adaptive reuse projects in small towns. Consequently, in 2012, the Oliver Springs Historical Society began an effort to raise funds from private sources to finish work on the Abston Garage.
The many readers of the Archaeology in Tennessee blog are encouraged to donate funds to help with completion of the Abston Garage. Although times are still hard, please take a few moments of your time to ponder this completion effort and consider whether you can afford to donate some small amount or great amount of your personal, foundation, or corporate funds to this historical undertaking in Oliver Springs. Please make your checks payable to the “Oliver Springs Historical Society,” and mail them to the following address, which was recently printed on a formal fundraising brochure for the project:
Oliver Springs Historical Society
Attention: Museum Fund
P.O. Box 409
Oliver Springs, Tennessee 37840