Johnson City asks residents to verify info included in National Register application

David Floyd • Sep 17, 2019 at 10:00 PM

While the neighborhood is no longer being considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, Johnson City is asking residents of Hillrise Park to contact the city if they find inaccurate information about their homes in an application sent to the state.

Development Services Director Preston Mitchell said the city is now reaching out to the Hillrise Park community to ask that residents review the property descriptions listed in the document, which is posted on the city’s website, and submit corrections as needed to the city.

“In doing so, we hope to gather as much information on corrections that are needed, gather that together, compile it and then send that to the state,” Mitchell said.

Comments can be submitted in a variety of ways, including through an online portal posted on the city’s website, www.johnsoncitytn.org. Residents can also contact the city by phone at 423-434-6059, email at [email protected], in person at the development services department at 601 E. Main St. or through mail postmarked to “City of Johnson City, ATTN: Matt Manley, 601 E. Main St., Johnson City, TN 37601.”

Johnson City has set a deadline of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25 for all input. Messages sent by mail must be postmarked by Monday, Sept. 23.

The application was initially sent to the State Review Board to determine whether the Hillrise Park neighborhood, also called the Gump Addition, should be included on the National Register of Historic Places, an official list of historically significant buildings, districts and sites across the nation that are considered worthy of preservation.

After receiving notarized letters objecting to the listing from a majority of residents in the neighborhood, the Tennessee Historical Commission said on Sept. 13 that the proposed district will no longer be considered for inclusion on the National Register.

Instead, the State Review Board will give a recommendation on whether the neighborhood meets a “determination of eligibility,” which means the district meets criteria for placement on the register but won’t be listed because of owner objection. The board will consider the question on Wednesday. The recommendation will then go on to the National Parks Service for final consideration.

Joe Hodges, who lives in the neighborhood, told Johnson City commissioners during an agenda review meeting on Monday that the application contains incorrect information about homes in the neighborhood. He was joined at the meeting by several other residents.

As examples, he said the document incorrectly listed the type of material present under his windows and the number of stories on his house.

Johnson City received a $12,000 state grant and provided $8,000 in matching funds to pay a consultant, the preservation firm Thomason & Associates out of Nashville, to conduct a survey of the houses in the neighborhood and submit the application to the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Phil Thomason, the principal of Thomason & Associates, said Tuesday that most of the historical information came from published sources or interviews with residents.

“If any of this information is not correct or we misinterpreted what we were told we are happy to make the changes,” he said in an email to city staff.

Thomason told the Johnson City Press that representatives with the firm went door-to-door in the neighborhood to hand out questionnaires to property owners. Two surveyors from the firm were able to hold a number of interviews with property owners, he said.

“Some of the more specific information that is included in the nomination, we got from the property owners themselves,” he said. “Now, there may be some instances where we misinterpreted what they said, or maybe the information they provided might not have been exactly the same information that other people might have about the property.”

Thomason said the firm follows typical Tennessee Historical Commission standards for how they describe buildings and structures, and unless the surveyors walk right up to the front of the house, he said it can be difficult to determine the kinds of materials that houses are made of, especially since many of the homes are set back from the road.

He said he’s been writing these kinds of nominations for 40 years, encompassing more than 50 nominations in 20 states. This is the first time he’s had a majority of owners object to a nomination.

“I’m just disappointed because it seemed like when we were doing the survey, everyone we encountered was very positive about it,” he said. 

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