PINEY FLATS — Residents of the small Sullivan County community of Piney Flats now have even more reason to be proud of the rich heritage present in the Piney Flats Historic District, as the district has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
After more than 3½ years of work, the historic district — which is made up of more than 20 sites and structures in the community — was added to the registry in November, making it the second historic in Sullivan County.
Mary Ann Hager, a resident of Piney Flats whose family has direct ties to the community’s early days, said the placement on the National Register is one of the highest honors the community can receive. Since a group of residents formed the Piney Flats Historical Society, Hager said the community’s history, which dates back to the late 1780s, has been given a better chance to be promoted.
The recognition from the Tennessee Historical Commission and the National Park Service serves as another way for Piney Flats’ history to be highlighted and preserved.
“Now, we have guidelines to protect the architectural structures that are remaining in the village to promote the rich heritage that we have for future generations,” Hager said.
Piney Flats was established in 1855 after Andrew Shell, a preacher and landowner, opened a post office in the community when construction on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad began. With the addition of businesses like Wolfe Brothers and Co., a furniture manufacturing company, Piney Flats grew despite its rural location.
“We were a rural village. Johnson City didn’t want to supply electricity, so they came up with their own electric company, they had their own telephone company, they had their own system, so they were way ahead of their time in terms of knowing what they needed to take care of their needs,” Hager said.
The historic district includes the Wolfe Brothers and Co. building, several homes of the community’s early pioneers, Mary Hughes School, Piney Flats United Methodist Church and a number of other locations.
Gray Stothart, community development coordinator and historic preservation planner for First Tennessee Development District, helped the group write the nomination for the National Register. He said much of the groundwork had already been done, which showed that the Piney Flats community was very much interested in making sure their heritage was preserved.
“We get interested in these things if a community or a person is already interested in it, and that was the case in Piney Flats,” he said. “They were interested in having it done. Not every place that’s eligible for the National Register is interested in having their district, home, building or structure placed on the National Register. They were.”