Staff Photo by Harrison Keely/Chattanooga Times Free Press County Historian Debbie Moore shows commissioner Robert Rominger the deteriorating back wall of the historic cabin on Chief John Ross' former property.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A deteriorating 1820s-era cabin on property once owned by Cherokee Chief John Ross may be taken apart for rebuilding.
Dennis Epperson, past president of the Ocoee Region Builders Association, made the recommendation to the association’s preservation committee last week, said John Smedley, vice president of the Ruritan Club of Flint Springs.
Smedley said restoration of the cabin has been delayed because opinions are split on whether it should be taken down and rebuilt or partially repaired just to keep it standing but permanently closing it to visitors to protect it.
There’s no way the cabin safely can be repaired without being deconstructed, Smedley said.
“If we didn’t replace it now, we’d have to replace it later,” he said.
Historian Debbie Moore said she had been concerned about leveling the cabin until recently, but has come to believe it must be done.
“I’m afraid people will get it down and lose their enthusiasm for the project,” she said.
Standing water and termites have contributed to the damage, she said.
Tearing the cabin down to begin anew would give the committee more control but also would be more expensive than just repairing it, said Michael Gavin, a preservation specialist with the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.
“The price tag increases any time you make it more complicated,” he said.
His initial assessment was to restore the cabin and close it, he said. But the cabin’s location on a public road surrounded by wilderness makes security a challenge, he said.
“That’s like having a cookie jar in front of a child and telling them they can never get into it,” he said. “Sooner or later, someone will.”
The Bradley County Finance Committee recently set aside $5,000 to stabilize the cabin, but most materials, such as gravel and lumber, have been donated by the community, Smedley said.
Moore said the Volunteer Energy Cooperative has give $1,000 to the project.
“It turned out to be a bigger project than we thought it would be to do it correctly,” Moore said. “It’s going to be complicated, and it’s going to be time-consuming, but it’s going to be worth it.”
Now it’s a race against time. If the cabin is disassembled before winter, the logs can be stored and kept dry, Smedley said.
Starting from the ground up also means the cabin can be rebuilt more accurately, he said.
County Commissioner Robert Rominger said he wants to involve his engineering class at Bradley Central High School in drafting a more authentic plan for the replacement.
A wooden floor will cost about $650, and roofing materials will run around $900, Smedley said, adding that the fireplace will be replaced with a more traditional one.
Epperson has volunteered to be general contractor for the project, Moore said.
“We know how important this is to be saved,” Epperson said. “The knowledge, the materials — it’s irreplaceable; we can’t afford to lose it.”
Harrison Keely is an online breaking news producer for the Times Free Press. He manages social media for the paper and anchors the daily newscast. He joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a reporter in 2010. He previously served as managing editor of the Smoky Mountain Sentinel in western North Carolina and as a business reporter for the Washington Times in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Lee University in 2009 where he served as ...