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Sabine Hill: It’s good to see history preserved

Staff Report • Feb 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget contains $1.1 million to preserve a valuable link to this region’s past. As Press Elizabethton Bureau chief John Thompson reported last week, the money would pay for much-needed renovations to the Taylor Home at Sabine Hill in Elizabethton.

State officials hope to make the house and the 5-acre tract where it sits a satellite site to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

Protection of this property — which is now under the control of the Tennessee Historic Commission — wouldn’t be possible had it not been for Helen Wilson, the chairwoman of the Elizabethton Historic Zoning Commission, and former Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte, who came to the rescue of the historic house by partnering to purchase Sabine Hill for $295,000.

Wilson and LaPorte unselfishly used their own money to stop any development that would have harmed a valuable piece of property that had been placed on the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s list of the state’s 10 most endangered historic treasures.

The Federal-style farmhouse became threatened in 2007 when a developer acquired an option to buy the house in order to build 46 condominium units. His plans included moving or demolishing the house.

The Sabine Hill House is built on a hill that commands the view of the western entrance to Elizabethton. It was completed by the family of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Taylor after he returned from the War of 1812.

Taylor was an ally of Andrew Jackson and joined his army during the war. He was promoted to brigadier general and Jackson gave him the responsibility for guarding the port of Mobile, Ala., from the coming British invasion while Jackson defended New Orleans.

Taylor also was elected the first sheriff of Carter County in 1796. His descendants include two Tennessee governors, brothers Bob and Alf Taylor, who became nationally famous when they ran against each other in the 1886 election, a campaign now known as Tennessee’s “War of the Roses.”

A first cousin of the brothers, Nathaniel Harris, became governor of Georgia, president of Georgia Tech University and played a key role in the founding of the school.

Structures like Sabine Hill must be preserved so that future generations of Tennesseans can actually touch a bit of this region’s rich history. Too much of that history has fallen victim to neglect, development and indifference. We are glad to see the Taylor House on Sabine Hill is being spared from such an inglorious fate.

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