Cornerstones, Chattanooga’s only non-profit historic preservation organization, is currently under contract to purchase Brown’s Tavern. The historic log structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is believed to have been built in 1803, before the founding of the City of Chattanooga.
John Brown, owner and operator of Brown’s Ferry and Brown’s Tavern, was half Cherokee and actively part of a Cherokee tribe. Brown played an important role in history as Captain in The War of 1812, and as brother-in-law to John Ross, who founded Ross’s Landing in 1815. Ross’s Landing became the start of Chattanooga in 1838. Brown later joined the Trail of Tears with his family, and returned to Chattanooga shortly before his death.
The purchase of Brown’s Tavern is Cornerstone’s second outright purchase in its 21-year history, and the first outside of downtown’s urban core. Ann Gray, executive director of Cornerstones, said the architectural and historical significance was too important to lose, so Cornerstones consciously stepped outside of downtown to protect the property. “Initially, there was a very real threat as to whether this historic, two-story log structure would be saved from demolition. Thankfully, it was privately owned and maintained for almost 50 years,” she said.
Cornerstones will place conservation and façade easements on the property to protect it moving forward. Negotiations are under way to sell the property to a responsible owner who understands its historical significance, and has a background in preservation architecture. The prospective new owner is willing and able to renovate, restore, and maintain it in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. “All structures, especially historic ones, need to be inhabited. The highest and best use for any structure is to have people in them,” said Gray.
Cornerstones was able to recognize the historic and preservation value of Brown’s Tavern. By purchasing the property with their revolving fund, Cornerstones has ensured the protection of this nationally significant property. The revolving fund is used to save historical structures, and relies heavily on donations. With the outright purchase of Brown’s Tavern, these funds have been depleted. Cornerstones is asking for contributions to help continue to save Chattanooga’s architectural heritage.
Additional information is located and can be found at www.cornerstonesinc.org or by calling (423) 265-2825.