Construction officially underway for County’s Welcome Center
by: Wm. K. Robbins
Executive Director, Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce
After eight years of hard work and the contributions of time and resources by many people, the Welcome Center is going to see the light of day.
On Thursday, May 12, bulldozers started to work and the construction of the Welcome Center and Museum is now officially underway. This effort began with a meeting on Feb. 6th, 2003 to discuss the possibilities of developing a Welcome Center and Museum as part of a longer term development of a living history village for Pickett County.
In this meeting, members of the Amonett Family, the Byrdstown-Pickett County Chamber of Commerce, the co-chairs of the Borderlands Foundation, the Pickett County Government, the Town of Byrdstown, along with representatives from the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) met to discuss the opportunities that would be crated with this community resource. The Welcome Center would be the first gateway on Highway 111 leading into Tennessee out of Kentucky.
As the “youngest” county and having recently discovered our place in the study of the history of the Civil War in Tennessee with the first military action and fatality in the state provided us with a unique opportunity. The Amonett house is eligible to be included on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the oldest standing structures in Pickett County. A log cabin in what had been the Northern end of Overton County near the Kentucky border was first constructed by the Dillon Family between 1830 & 1840. The poplar siding was added during the early half of the 20th century to modernize the outward appearance of the home for added insulation and warmth and protection to the logs. It was agreed that the cultural heritage was important enough to save and once lost it could never be recovered. It was agreed that the home place should be conserved for its cultural significance and could be a part of a longer term project to develop a living history village for educational and cultural purposes that benefits the community, the county and creates value for the surrounding region. With an agreement in place between these partners to move forward, work started immediately.
A Transportation Enhancement Act grant (TEA-21) was recommended as the means to pay for the welcome center project. This grant was researched and developed by the UCDD. This application was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to start the process of reviews and many questions and more work. After several meetings in Nashville to discuss the proposal TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely made his recommendations to the Governor. Gov. Bredesen announced that Pickett County would receive the enhancement grant on July 16, 2005 with a press conference in Cookeville. On May 11, 2007 the building committee began meeting to develop the design of the new facility. The plans were submitted for review and final approvals and the authorization to publish the request for bids in early January of 2011. Bids were opened Jan. 27 and the recommendations were submitted to the Pickett County Commission for approvals. Contracts were drawn up and after a second budget review with the commission for potential budget oversight were finally signed on the 19th of April.
The projected completion time is September 2011.