I got a real shock when I read a new post over at the fantastic Posterity Project blog today. The Tennessee Preservation Trust has released its list of the state’s most endangered sites, and one of them is the Graham-Kivette House in Tazewell. This ca. 1810 home is by far the oldest house in the area, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the house where I grew up.
In fact, I have some vivid personal memories of the place. I think its last owner was John Kivette, who was Claiborne County’s historian and a good friend of my dad’s. When I was a kid I used to sit in one of the house’s downstairs rooms, underneath one of those massive fireplace mantels, while the two of them pored over archival material and chatted about local history and the Civil War. I’ve driven past the house thousands of times since then. I’ll probably be doing so again tonight.
Whenever these “most threatened” lists come out I always read them with a sort of vague, general concern. When it’s a place you know firsthand, it’s more like a punch to the stomach. I knew the house was a significant local landmark, but I had no idea I’d ever see it on a statewide list, or that it was in such precarious shape.
I’ve always said that all history is “local history” for somebody. It turns out “somebody” includes me, too.