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A popular State Street business, two beautifully preserved homes from the early 1900s, and meticulous efforts to revitalize downtown and the childhood home of a Bristol icon were recognized Thursday with Bristol Tennessee Historic Preservation Awards.
Hosted by Pins & Friends, winner of the 2023 Historic Preservation Award in the Downtown Commercial Historic District, the awards program was the fourth such event sponsored by the City of Bristol, Tennessee and its Historic Preservation Committee. The awards are designed to recognize the overall quality of restoration work and the positive impact the restoration has on the community.
Presented to Chip Zimmerman and Martin Robinette, owners of Pins & Friends at 700 State Street, the Downtown Historic District award recognizes extensive renovations to the current building, which was constructed after the original structure burned. A typical mid-century design, the building sits over Beaver Creek and features a unique interlocking method to connect the interior cinder blocks to the brick façade.
Built in 1922 by Col. James Barker as part of the westward expansion of downtown Bristol, the Barker Building was home to several businesses in past years, including a restaurant, fruit stand, a number of taverns, and Uncle Sam’s Loan Office before it was destroyed by fire in 1956. Soon afterward, People’s Drug Store moved into the newly constructed building and remained there for several years. In more recent years, the building was used for storage before the current owners purchased it and embarked on major renovations to create a downtown gathering spot that now includes a duckpin bowling alley, arcade games, a party room, and restaurant.
The house at 800 Georgia Avenue, a Queen Anne with Italianate Influence, has been home to Deborah Nunn for just over a decade. Originally built in 1910, the house is similar in size and architecture to the one located next door at 808 Georgia Avenue. Both homes were built by renowned Bristol builder Samuel McCrary and are known throughout the Fairmount community as “sister houses.” Unique features of the home include the original leaded glass windows and religious statues that sit above the second-story windows.
Brick, siding, and trim have been masterfully preserved with only minor repairs over the years. A crumbling concrete carport was removed by the current owner and replaced with a deck at the rear of the house. The deck fits nicely with the overall style of the home and provides additional outdoor living space to enjoy the historic neighborhood.
Built by Bristol civic leader and candy maker George Franklin Helms Sr. in 1927, the stunning Colonial Revival home at 1228 7th Avenue was purchased by Emerson (now deceased) and Kitty Williams 50 years ago. The couple named the home “Homestead” after one of the first candies made by the Helms Company and completed the applications necessary to get the home included on the Bristol Historical Association Registry in 2009 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
The brick home features a four-column portico, large picture windows, an indoor sunporch, a screened side porch, and a detached cedar-plank garage in back. The scenic lawn features a peony garden that was planted by the Helms family and mature trees, including a dogwood, holly, and hemlock tree that are original to the home.
The prestigious Stewardship Award is designed to recognize individuals who have made a significant impact on the community through restoration efforts. Two Stewardship Awards were presented Thursday.
Natives of Grundy, Va, Eric and Christin Blevins came to the Bristol community two decades ago and became intrigued by State Street’s historic buildings at a time when many were vacant and boarded up. With encouragement from community leaders on both sides of the state line, they purchased a condemned building in the 500 block of State Street and began the first of many restoration projects to provide luxury loft living downtown. They also embarked on a campaign, visiting civic clubs and community organizations, to provide updates on ongoing downtown restoration projects that generated excitement and sparked further restoration of Bristol’s historic structures. Through this painstaking work, they created a fervor for downtown living that helped significantly transform the Downtown Historic District.
One of their most recent projects is Remington Bristol, a former typewriter sales and service building on 8th Street that has been masterfully restored to include modern loft spaces with high-end finishes and parking nearby. The key to the success of this building and many others, Eric said, has been finding charming buildings in the heart of the City and teaming up with architects, contractors, and bankers who understand the unique challenges and special rewards of historic restoration. The Stewardship Award recognizes their continued efforts to find new uses for old buildings.
A Stewardship Award was also presented to Brenda Otis and the Bristol Historical Association for their work to preserve the 1223 Anderson Street home where Bristol’s native son, Ernest Jennings Ford, was born in 1919. Known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, the singer/television host was known for the rich baritone voice and down-home humor that earned him fame throughout the 1950s/1960s and a warm welcome each time he returned home to Bristol.
The Bristol Historical Association purchased the 800-square-foot home in 1991 and immediately went to work to remove asphalt shingles, install larger windows that fit the style of the home, and remove interior finishes that had been added over the decades. A longtime BHA member, Otis spearheaded efforts to return the home to its original condition and was instrumental in finding period pieces for the home. It served as the Historical Association’s headquarters and meeting space for many years, but now is dedicated to displaying Tennessee Ernie memorabilia, much of which was donated by Brion Ford after his father’s death. Otis continues today to serve as caretaker of the home, overseeing routine maintenance and welcoming visitors by sharing stories of Ford’s early life in Bristol and highlights of his amazing career. The Stewardship Award recognizes the ongoing efforts to preserve a key piece of Bristol’s history.
The Historic Preservation Awards are presented each year by the Bristol Tennessee Department of Community Development & Planning and the Historic Preservation Committee. Current committee members are Susan Tanner, Debra Kennedy, Rebecca Wilkerson, Lucia Schneider, Maggie Elliott, Vickie Mitoraj and Anderew Snyder.
Photos are available here. For additional information, please contact City Planner Heather Moore at (423) 989-5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.