Our organization, "Create Appalachia", wants to save The Oaks Castle for the community as a historic landmark home and
gardens, and create a center for the arts where the diverse creative
activities in East Tennessee and Southern Appalachia can be celebrated and
"Create Appalachia", is a community based organization of citizens who want to promote arts, art education, and arts experience for our community, and who want to help preserve our historic sites. If we reach our goal, we will be applying for non-profit status.
We want to:
- Save this unique historic mansion from being sold for condos
or a business, and the park-like grounds from being sub-divided into apartment
and business sites. We hope to preserve the historic building and grounds for
the community. It should not be hidden away.
- Use the Oaks Castle as a public center for the arts. It is
the ideal property for a public museum and gardens, and is perfectly suited for
a wide variety of small and large events, with space for performances, exhibitions,
classrooms and studios.
There’s nothing like the Oaks Castle in our region and it has
the potential to completely transform and grow our arts community. We want the
Oaks Castle Arts Center to connect the community at large with the wide range
of arts in our region, be a connection point for the various arts organizations
in our area, and serve as the visual symbol for the arts in Johnson City. It will also provide a unique destination for
visitors to our community, and can help spur economic development in Johnson
Our goal is to be fully
self-sustaining by 2018.
We Don't Have Much Time!
This a one-time opportunity for us. It is for sale right
now, but may soon go up for auction. If it sells before we can raise the
money, our project ends and we’ve lost this opportunity.
The house is empty and stating to deteriorate and the
grounds are becoming overgrown. The statuary and fountains that used to grace
the property have been auctioned off. There have been break-ins and fixtures
are being damaged and stolen. The property is currently being advertised for multifamily
housing, or a business. It is worth saving!
Johnson City is in beautiful, rural East Tennessee in the
Southern Appalachian Mountains. It is home to East Tennessee State University
and one of the best medical centers in the south. Our area features NASCAR
racing, a tradition of bluegrass, old time country music, storytelling, a relaxed way of life, and
really friendly people.Our “southern
charmed” downtown is at the beginning of a development upswing and more
small businesses are getting started here. It's a great place to live.
There are significant gaps, though. We don’t have an art
museum or a place to house collections. We don’t have a destination spot for
visitors to our community that helps define our community and attract visitors
to our city. We don’t have a dedicated
venue for large exhibitions and creative fairs, contemporary theatre in the
park or outdoor indie film festivals. We also don’t have a good community
classroom facility and workshop space dedicated to the arts. Those of us who
teach in the arts find limited opportunities to expose our students to art
It’s not that we don’t have creative people—this area is
absolutely rich with fine artists, musicians, writers, professional designers,
instrument makers, furniture designers, animators, filmmakers, composers,
and… well, the list goes on. First-hand exposure to the arts is a top ten
benchmark for most desirable places to live in our country, but, as in many
rural communities, the arts have not historically been a priority. Public funding
for the arts here is hard to get, especially since limited exposure has made
our population less aware of the impact of the arts on cultural identity and economic
Things are starting to turn around here thanks to the
continuing efforts of hardworking and passionate members of our community. Public
art is starting to appear around town, and more arts events and small galleries
are cropping up, but we have a way to go to establish a community where the
arts can truly thrive.
The Oaks Castle
This amazing 14,200 square foot historic mansion was built
in 1922 by Italian artisans for TN Supreme Court Special Judge Thaddeus Cox, a
well-known and respected mover and shaker in Tennessee politics. He had
the home built to reflect the Italian architectural design of the famous
Biltmore House, and it is sometimes referred to as Johnson City’s’
“Mini-Biltmore.” Architect James Green designed the house and landscape with
the help of Mrs. Pearle Painter Cox who personally oversaw The Oaks Nursery and
the 22 acre grounds. It was the private residence of the original extended
family until 2000 when it was sold and converted to doctor’s offices.
The house features large elegant rooms and a tower room that
has a magnificent view of the mountains. The open lawns have huge oaks
surrounding them and ancient boxwoods line pathways around the property leading
to what used to be landscaped terraces with stone facades and goldfish ponds.
It has the space, grounds, location and stature to help elevate and showcase creativity
in our area by providing a home for the arts. The grounds themselves would make
a magnificent public botanical garden and green space.
Our Fundraising goal of $679,000.will allow us to make a 20% down payment, pay mortgage
and taxes for the first year, make partial renovations to the house and
gardens, and provide a bare bones operating budget for the first year. With this,
we can be ready to start hosting events and bringing in revenue within a few
months of purchase.
If we reach at least $2,140,000:
We will be able to buy the property outright, do the
renovations most needed to start, and operate for a year.
Please help us make this dream come true!
Risks and challenges
Risks and challenges include:
1. Unknown costs for renovations. We have some idea, but a complete inspection still needs to be done. Hidden problems may also appear during renovation on this 92-year old structure.
We will be seeking specific donations from the community for renovations, and will be seeking sponsorships from construction companies and suppliers to help reduce costs. Once the building is secured, there are grants we can apply for that will help address this need.
2. The time it will take to build a revenue stream that will make this center self-supporting.
The Center can be made partially operational for events very quickly since the main floor and grounds are still in good shape. Our goal is to concentrate on preparing those areas first and start working events, such as weddings, receptions and outdoor events within 2 months of purchase. We will also be holding fundraising events for the Castle on site.
3. We have applied for 501(c)(3) non-profit status to operate and maintain the Oaks Castle as a permanent part of our community arts scene. Until that happens, grant funding for non-profits will not be available to us. We are happy to report that since the start of this campaign, we have gotten the support of our congressman to have it fast tracked. We should have our approval by mid-October!
We plan to continue fundraising through donations and events.
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