CHARLESTON, Tenn. -- The Charleston/Calhoun/Hiwassee Historical Society has raised nearly half the money to buy an empty bank building that is the linchpin for a planned historical interpretive trail and regional heritage center.
The property price is $132,000. With two $1,000 pledges from the audience Sunday at the society's monthly meeting, the total is now $58,000.
But the clock is ticking. The society must tell Regions Bank its decision in two weeks.
Melissa Woody, vice president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, told society members the bank building is key to the rest of the heritage development. Society members are seeking donations from regional businesses and individuals.
"There are very few grants for property acquisition," she said.
But when the site is secured, she said, grants will become available to develop an interpretative center in the building, a greenway along the section of U.S. Highway 11 known as the "Concrete Highway," and a river park.
Society President Faye Callaway said the Hiwassee river towns are a major part of American history and the Cherokee story, as well as being important railroad locations during the Civil War.
"One day we will be able to tell this story to the world," Callaway said.
Woody said the total fundraising goal is $200,000 so there will be money for startup costs, such as handicap-accessible facilities.
In October, representatives from the National Park Service will be here to look at Rattle Snake Springs, the site where many Cherokees were held before beginning the Trail of Tears, Callaway said.
Sunday's guest speaker, historian Jamie Woodcock, told how she investigated artifacts from Cherokee and pioneer families at the construction site for a new Cleveland airport. She also discussed mapping historical sites in McMinn and Monroe counties and explained national preservation laws.
"This area has a unique history and the stories are all around us," Woodcock said.
Contact Randall Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-314-1029.