Leaders with the Greeneville Greene County History Museum have announced plans to relocate to a new building. Fundraising efforts for the new facility, expected to cost between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, will begin at a later date.
The planned new facility will be at Mary Gertrude Fox Park, adjacent to the Andrew Johnson Presidential Home and the Babb Homestead. The museum already owns the plot of land and operates the Babb Homestead cabin.
Bill Brown and Dan Spice, co-presidents of the museum’s board, made the announcement Thursday at a reception marking the opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, “Vintage Greeneville – Pictures from the Past.” (See related article, this page.)
Speaking to reception attendees, Brown cited issues with the current building, a 103-year-old former school where the museum has operated since 1988.
Classroom configuration is one problem, and numerous other issues have arisen as the structure has aged.
Spice said the current site is “a square peg, round hole situation,” as the building, known as the Andrew Johnson Complex, was not built to be a museum, but rather a high school.
It is common for the museum to have large groups of school children visiting at one time, Spice said, and the layout makes it hard to display exhibits and provide space to keep groups together and focused on the material presented.
Accessibility for visitors with limited mobility is another problem; officials, including those from the Town of Greeneville, which owns the building, have acknowledged that it is not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Poor climate control, which Brown said poses a risk to collections, lack of storage, and high energy costs are among other issues motivating the decision to move.
The cost to bring the current building up to code — without any other renovations — would be more than $2 million, guests were told Thursday.
Spice highlighted other benefits of relocating.
The new location will be museum-specific, accessible to all visitors with plenty of storage space, room for additional exhibits and meeting spaces.
“We want to be here for decades to come,” Spice said.
Based on growth patterns at other museums, Spice said the downtown showcase could expect a significant increase in visitors in a new space. Added tourism in Greeneville will save local residents tax dollars, he said, and would also open doors to college internship programs with the museum in the future. Tusculum University is home to one of few undergraduate museum-related degree programs not just statewide but regionally.
The new location would also give guests a shorter walking distance to visit the Babb Homestead cabin, on permanent loan to the museum, and the Andrew Johnson Presidential Home, operated by the National Park Service.
Spice said the project is likely to cost between $1.2 million and 1.5 million plus the cost of moving collections — but the board was not asking for money on Thursday.
In the future, Spice said, the museum will launch a fundraising campaign, including opportunities for community members to purchase inscribed bricks used to form a “Heritage Road” walkway inside.
“It’s the community’s museum, and we want everybody to feel that they’re a part of it,” Spice said.
The frame of the new building will be made of steel, which will allow the structure to stand without support beams inside that might get in the way or block visitors’ view.
The outside will be entirely wrapped in stone; the steel structure will not be visible outside.
The new building will also be equipped with solar panels, aimed at reducing the museum’s utility bills.
A time frame for the relocation has not been announced; it will be dependent upon fundraising efforts, officials have said.
“Vintage Greeneville – Pictures from the Past,” featuring the work of local photographer Willie Brown, is the Greeneville Greene County History Museum’s newest exhibit.
The images were captured circa 1890-1925 and depict life in Greeneville and Greene County, guests at a museum reception Thursday heard.
The collection was donated by Haskell Fox Jr., who found the glass negatives in the attic of his childhood home after his father, Haskell Fox Sr., died.
Fox said Brown’s family previously owned the house he grew up in downtown.
After his father’s death, Fox and his family were cleaning the house when they found Brown’s camera and the glass negatives in the attic.
Fox said the family sold many of the items in the home; but, when he realized the negatives were drawing interest from out of state, he decided to bid against the interested parties and buy them back so they wouldn’t leave Greene County.
Fox provided some insight into Brown’s life in Greeneville at the Thursday reception.
Brown and his sisters were the grandchildren of Mordecai Lincoln and grew up as members of St. James Episcopal Church on West Church Street.
Brown was eccentric, Fox said, and enjoyed writing poetry; he was often seen sitting in the sun on the porch, wearing his sister’s sun bonnet to keep the sun from his eyes as he worked on a typewriter, composing poems.
A Kingsport man who shot at a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper in May 2018 during an encounter on Interstate 81 was sentenced Thursday in Greene County Criminal Court to a 15-year state prison term.
Kenneth Cody Powell, 26, entered guilty pleas to attempted first-degree murder and theft of property valued over $2,500 in connection with the incident. Powell, of Stonegate Road, was sentenced by Judge John F. Dugger Jr. The 15-year prison sentence is at 30 percent release eligibility.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the officer-involved shooting found that about 4:30 a.m. on May 18, 2018, a trooper saw a white pickup truck parked along the ramp leading to the state scales complex on southbound I-81.
Trooper Lee Cutshall spoke to the driver, later identified as Powell, who said he had stopped because the truck was out of gas.
The trooper returned to the patrol car, and a records check of the license tag showed the Ford Ranger pickup was reported stolen in Sullivan County. As he approached the truck a second time, a report at the time said, “(Powell) attempted to flee the area and drove the vehicle into the (I-81) median.”
Powell then began firing shots from inside the truck.
“The trooper returned fire, striking the subject,” according to the TBI.
Cutshall was not injured.
Powell required rehabilitation treatment at a facility in Nashville and now uses a wheelchair to get around, according to court documents.
A Greene County Grand Jury indicted Powell in 2018 on two counts of attempted first-degree murder and other offenses. The attempted murder indictments allege that Powell acted with premeditation in attempting to kill the trooper, and committed an unlawful act in doing so.
The grand jury also indicted Powell on charges of felony evading arrest, criminal impersonation, theft of property valued over $2,500 but less than $10,000 and driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Powell received a two-year sentence from Dugger on the theft of property over $2,500 count, with the time to run concurrently with the attempted murder conviction.
Powell was represented by the public defender’s office. The sentence will run consecutively to any time imposed in a pending violation of probation case in Sullivan County, court officials said.
Powell remains held in the Greene County Detention Center pending assignment to a state prison.
An iconic presence in Greeneville’s downtown was lost Thursday with the death of Jimmy Lee “Jim” Cutshaw, 80, owner and operator of Tipton’s Cafe on Depot Street.
Frequently hospitalized in recent periods for a variety of serious health issues, he’d been released to return to his Baileyton Road home. It was there he died early Thursday morning, his family reported.
Tipton’s Cafe remained open Thursday, and staff members, many of them with family connections to Cutshaw and who were visibly grief-stricken, received visits throughout the day from those paying respect to the well-known man behind the eatery’s counter.
Cutshaw had co-owned and operated the small diner, which served basic fare such as bacon-and-egg breakfasts and burgers-and-chips lunches, since the 1960s. Cutshaw’s father had run the eatery before him.
Cutshaw also was a deputy clerk with the Greene County Circuit Court for the past 40 years. His overnight presence downtown was a benefit to law enforcement officers who needed a late-night authorized signature on legal documents related to police actions, or to prisoners being released from detention.
Cutshaw’s wife of 58 years, Edna, was often at his side as they operated the cafe. Grandson Tyler Rhoton was Cutshaw’s usual co-worker in overnight hours in recent years.
In a Thursday morning visit to The Greeneville Sun shortly after Cutshaw’s death, Rhoton shared memories of his grandfather, whom he said he considered his father figure. Some of those memories, along with those of others from the community, will be featured in Saturday’s “Clips to Keep” column in The Greeneville Sun.
Rhoton recalled that his grandfather was compassionate toward those who came in to the cafe hungry but without means to pay for food. Cutshaw would feed such people, telling them to “just pay next time you’re able,” Rhoton said. He estimated that, over the years, his grandfather shared hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of food with those down on their luck.
In Cutshaw’s obituary (see page 6A), family members note that they “wish to express their appreciation to their family members, friends, neighbors, bowling alley friends, golf course buddies, Greeneville Police Department friends and Greene County Sheriff’s Department friends for the outpouring of support during this difficult time.”
In addition to his wife, Cutshaw’s survivors include two daughters, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren, and two brothers. Detailed family information, along with family visitation and funeral arrangements, are outlined in his obituary.
Rhoton told the Sun that the family anticipates continuing to operate the iconic downtown cafe. The cafe remained open Thursday and received its usual crowd of customers, along with friends who came to offer condolences.
Rhoton said he is astonished by how Cutshaw continued to work long hours at the cafe, even as age and health issues came upon him.
“I don’t see how he did it,” he said. “Even after he was 80 years old, he was working 12 hours a day — me and him together.”
Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home is handling arrangements.