CLINTON— The Anderson County Commission agreed in a 13-1 vote on Monday to buy the former Bank of America building in Lake City for a Coal Mining Museum.
The two-story brick building will be purchased using $100,000 from the sale of property in the David Jones Industrial Park. Lake City will own the former bank, and it could also be used to store excess county supplies and as a satellite office for county departments. Organizers hope to open the museum eight months after Lake City receives the building.
Most of the initial revenue for museum operations would come from Lake City’s lodging tax. The Lake City Council has agreed to use one-third of that hotel and motel tax for the museum for at least the next three years, said Stephanie Wells, director of the Anderson County Tourism Council.
The museum building could be renovated with help from a Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant that has a Nov. 1 application deadline. There is a 20 percent match required. The museum board and volunteers will immediately start fundraising efforts to secure matching funds, according to a presentation Wells gave to Anderson County Commissioners on Monday.
Supporters said the museum will serve as a tribute to the area’s rich coal mining history, help revitalize downtown Lake City, and expand tourism in the county.
“We’ve been trying to do something for Lake City and help their economy for a long time,” Anderson County Commissioner Myron Iwanski said. “This is the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come along very often.”
Lake City must submit a bid for the property by the end of the day Wednesday, according to WYSH Radio in Clinton.
Wells’ presentation on Monday said a planning grant from PlanET will provide architectural drawings for remodeling. And the city has received a planning grant for the revitalization of the downtown area from First Street to Eighth Street, and the Bank of America building is “strategically located on First Street.”
There are conceptual drawings for the museum from a 2007 feasibility study, and those could be incorporated on a scaled-down basis, Wells said.
The Coal Mining Museum in Lake City was started during the World’s Fair in 1982, and since then it has been housed in many temporary locations throughout Lake City.
“This proposal will provide a permanent home to the many artifacts that have been collected since 1982,” the presentation said. “Many people have expressed an interest in donating items to the museum once a permanent home is obtained.”
Wells’ presentation said the Coal Mining Museum will serve multiple purposes. It will also be the gateway to the Coal Creek Motor Discovery Trail, the North Anderson County/Lake City Welcome Center, and the gateway to the Devil’s Triangle, “which will attract diverse visitors.”
“The whole goal is to expand experience,” Wells said.
The Coal Creek Motor Discovery Trail is a self-guided tour and includes more than 25 historic sites throughout the Lake City, Fraterville, and Briceville area. Many of the sites have historical markers that tell the historical significance of the locations, Wells’ presentation said, and there are guided tours on the anniversaries of the Fraterville and Cross Mountain mining disasters.
A cemetery next to Historic Briceville Church, which is located on the trail, is the final resting place for 21 of the 300 miners killed in those disasters.
The Devil’s Triangle is the nickname for Highway 116 from Lake City to Petros, and it is on the Coal Creek Motor Discovery Trail.
Projected revenues for the museum are expected to start at about $21,000 in the first year and grow to $50,000 by the third year.
Once the museum is open in the new location, admission will be charged, and a gift shop featuring souvenirs, coal-inspired collectibles, and refreshments will provide revenues. In addition, the museum board will continue to conduct fundraisers and seek public and private funding, the presentation said.
Initially, the museum will be open three to four days a week, but operating hours could increase to 40 hours a week by the third year, although the museum could reduce its hours in the winter months.