Sesquicentennial Commission accepts list of events to be featured in History Plaza project

Zach Vance • Feb 12, 2019 at 11:26 PM

The Sesquicentennial Commission voted Tuesday to accept a recommended list of historical events that could be engraved into the legacy plaza, one of the projects proposed in King Commons Park to celebrate Johnson City’s 150th anniversary.

The list of 20 events deemed significant to Johnson City’s history was presented by Commissioner Donna Noland from the commission’s Fundraising Committee, but while the recommendation was accepted, the commission was not yet ready to finalize the list. Instead, commissioners said they wanted to let the History Committee and other stakeholders review and propose changes.

“I think the more people who lay eyes on this, we have a better chance to not have something fall through the cracks that we are missing,” Noland told the commission.

The first draft included such events as: Johnson City receiving its first charter in 1869; Science Hill High School being founded in 1867-1868; Dr. Hezehiak Hankal becoming the city’s first African American alderman; and the opening of East Tennessee State Normal School in 1911.

Noland said a variety of people contributed to the list, including historians Bob Cox and Alan Bridwell.

“Donna, I think you and your committee have done a fantastic job,” Commissioner Rebecca Henderson said about the list. “I know early on, when you asked me to send you a list of  (events), it was hard. It was really hard to pare down to just the 10 or 15.”

Currently, the design of the legacy plaza features the Tennessee three-star emblem, with an ornamental dome in the center. Circling the ornamental dome will be “bands” engraved with dates and descriptions of events considered significant to Johnson City’s history.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the size of the font and letter spacing the historical inscriptions needs to be determined. He did say there will be 32 blocks circling the dome, each 6 feet long with 2 feet of spacing in between. But Pindzola said the city wants to leave several blocks empty to fill in future events.

One question that came up for debate during Tuesday’s meeting was whether to include the opening of the McKellar-Tri-City Airport in 1937, even though the airport is not actually located within Johnson City’s limits. Noland said her committee really felt the airport was significant because it improved access into the city.

“If I’m taking my 14-year-old down there to learn about the history of Johnson City, what do you want him (or her) to learn? Looking at dates, what do you feel is important?” Noland said.

“We kind of came from the reference of trying to educate the public about the dates that are probably most relevant to the history and creation of Johnson City.”

The History Committee is scheduled to meet next week and review the list. Based on cost projections presented in December, the history plaza will cost an estimated $450,000.

In other news, the Sesquicentennial Commission voted to pursue an agreement with Karol Vaughn with PromoPro and Karen Hubbs with The Goose Chase to sell sesquicentennial memorabilia.

Vaughn and Hubbs showed commissioners some examples of items they could sell via an online store, such as hats, coasters, t-shirts, tumblers and magnets. If the demand for those items grow, Vaughn said they could explore other merchandise, such as umbrellas or jackets.

Based on Hubbs and Vaughn’s proposal, the city would receive $2 from each sale of merchandise.

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