DUNLAP, Tenn. — Sequatchie County's Liberty School has been home to many things in the past 80 years — a school, a church, even a bar. Now, one Cartwright, Tennessee, native is hoping to preserve the historic building and convert it into apartments.
Local resident Michael Hudson bought the building in late-December for $65,000. He says it's a "time capsule" and that its future residents will be living inside local history.
Renovations began in January and the goal is to reopen it in July as a four-apartment complex, with a community center planned in the future.
Liberty School began in 1908 as a one-room schoolhouse on the property, according to a history of the school written in 1984 by Agnes Tollet. Its first teacher was Edward Layne.
The school eventually expanded and added a second room. But in 1939, the building burned down.
Later that year, a new school was built as part of the New Deal-era National Youth Administration. It was larger, with three classrooms and a lunchroom, according to Tollett. That structure remains today.
The Liberty School eventually closed its doors in 1963 and students were moved to the Griffith School.
Hudson said his connection to the school and community run deep.
He served as Sequatchie County's executive from 2004-2011 and lives on 13 acres across the road from the school. Some family members even attended the old Liberty School as children, he said.
The renovated building will have four, two-bedroom apartments, Hudson describes as a New York-style studio design with 12-foot beadboard ceilings and original hardwood flooring. Living space will be downstairs and bedrooms upstairs, Hudson said.
Jeremy Parker, who is leading the renovation, rode his bicycle past the school as a kid. He said some of the wood used in the project was salvaged from the interior.
All four apartments are unique in their design — two of them with larger floor plans and the other two smaller. Hudson said the smaller apartments will rent for $700-$750 a month, while the larger ones will rent for $800- $850.
Hudson hopes to complete the project by July and then will focus on the concrete block cafeteria building behind the school. It might become two more apartments or the community center, he said.
He said he hopes his plans lead to more growth in the community.
"There's nothing like this in the valley," he said.
Jakey Cooley, vice president of First Farmers and Commercial Bank, said Hudson had come to him with his plan for the school.
"We thought it was a fantastic idea," said Cooley, whose mother attended Liberty School. "He's hoping to revitalize that community."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.