And next month, you can see the changes for yourself: an open house is planned for Aug. 4, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Camp at Buffalo Mountain, formerly Buffalo Mountain Camp, had been abandoned for almost five years when the Cox family bought the property. A flood and landslide in 2012 washed out the road to the camp site and damaged the cabins and bathhouses, forcing camp operations to close after more than 60 years and eventually move to Bays Mountain in Kingsport.
But the Cox family went right to work on the retreat center, replacing broken water lines and restoring the 17-bedroom building to host special events in order to raise money for the next big project — Allison Lodge, the iconic red building where countless campers and counselors sang songs, attended worship services and ate meals over the decades.
“The biggest thing that we’ve done, is the walls that were holding up the dining area (roof) were spreading apart,” Roxanne said. “It was a few months of moving it an inch at a time so we didn’t drop the roof. We finally got it where it needed to be, but it took a while.”
Roxanne and Billy Cox own an excavation business, and got started washing out the mud, replacing floors and windows, building an extra door leading out to a new patio, and landscaping around the building with minimal outside help.
The Coxes have lived near the property for generations, and their son Matt Cox said he remembers playing and exploring with his cousins on the premises during the camp’s off-season when he was a child.
Matt said one of the most challenging parts of working on the site was replacing the floor in the kitchen; he had to remove several layers of flooring before building a new floor. He and his mother said they were glad to find that the kitchen equipment was undamaged by the flooding, and now the lodge boasts a functional kitchen for the first time since 2012.
With two solid years of work, the lodge has been hosting special events like birthday parties, weddings and family reunions, an even hosted hurricane evacuees last year.
“We’ve talked to people and a lot of people think we’re destroyed still,” Matt said. “We’re just going to try to get people in here to see what we’ve done. I want to do it more for the community. This place, everybody around knows about it, most everyone went to camp here.”
“This has happened over and over and over and I love it, but you just sit on the porch and you can hear people at the pool or people in the creek just laughing and it just makes you feel good to know they’re enjoying themselves being out here in the mountains,” Roxanne said.
Going forward, Roxanne said plans for the lodge are to continue hosting special events throughout the year, but she and her family want the community to be able to see the campsite up and running through hosting the open house. There are a few cabins on the site that she said may be renovated in the future, including two small cabins at the top of the mountain, but right now the focus is continuing work around the retreat center and the lodge.
Booking for the property can be made by visiting the The Camp at Buffalo Mountain Facebook page, by visiting thecampatbuffalo.com or by calling 753-3604. The open house is open to the public Aug. 4 from 4-7 p.m.
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.