Officials to turn dirt on city's Legacy Plaza

Robert Houk • Updated Jun 12, 2019 at 8:54 AM

Johnson City officials will hold a groundbreaking Thursday for a signature project of the city’s year-long 150th anniversary celebration.

City commissioners will join members of the Sesquicentennial Commission and corporate donors to the Legacy Plaza project at a 2 p.m. public ceremony at King Commons, 112 N. Commerce St.

Lester Lattany, the chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission, said the groundbreaking ceremony represents a visible beginning of the legacy project. He said it gives donors an opportunity to kick off the construction project, while sending a message to the public that “this is happening.”

The design of the Legacy Plaza features the three-star emblem of the Tennessee flag, with a commissioned art piece in the center of the rings. Circling the dome are rings engraved with dates and descriptions of events significant to Johnson City’s history.

The Sesquicentennial Commission is conducting a fundraising campaign to pay for the Legacy Plaza. Funds raised by the committee will be added to the $1.3 million the City Commission has earmarked for the project.

City officials say a second groundbreaking ceremony will be held later for the Natural Adventure Area section of Legacy Plaza. This component includes state-of-the-art features that promote a healthy and active lifestyle for people of all ages.

The Legacy Plaza is expected to be completed by Dec. 1.

Some of the historical dates to be marked by the legacy project include 1870, when the city’s namesake and first postmaster, Henry Johnson, became its first mayor; 1889, when Powell Square was established as the city’s first public park; and 1961, when May Ross McDowell was elected by her colleagues to be the city’s first female mayor.

Sesquicentennial Commissioner Jenna Moore said the Legacy Plaza is a project that will allow “families to learn more about the history of Johnson City.”

Fundraising for the sesquicentennial celebration’s legacy project includes six designations for donors. They run from the classification of “Early Pioneer” for a contribution between $1,500 and $14,999, which earns donors at that level a copy of a commemorative sesquicentennial book and their names on a recognition display, to those with the “Legacy Circle” designation, who will get their names paced on permanent railroad ties to be installed at the site for making a donation of $250,000 or more.

Top financial contributors to the sesquicentennial project include Ballad Health, the city of Johnson City, and Mitch Cox Companies.

Donations can be made online by going to www.jctn150.com, or by mailing a check to the City of Johnson City/ATTN Janet Jennings, CPA, CPFO at 601 E. Main St., P.O. Box 2150, Johnson City, TN 37605-2150.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated an ornamental dome would be included in the project. The dome was part of an earlier design and is no longer included as of a recent city staff decision. Also, contrary to documents provided by the City of Johnson City, Johnson City Development Authority has not been a financial contributor to the project.

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