Wednesday, June 6, 2012
With the rebuilding of historic Poe’s Tavern 98 percent complete, the revamped park next to Soddy-Daisy City Hall is beginning to take shape. Bill Carney of Chattanooga Woodworking Academy, which contracted with the city to build Poe’s, asked officials at a recent City Commission meeting for $5,000 to fund materials to build a blacksmith shop on-site.
“It’s something that would draw attention to the house, a place where people could work,” said Carney. “We’ve always wanted it to be a living museum.”
The city has already agreed to provide up to $50,000 in funds for the building of Poe’s Tavern.
“The city, I think, has made a great investment in this building,” said Carney, adding that he feels demonstrations by blacksmiths at the shop would draw more visitors to Poe’s and therefore make the city’s initial investment more worthwhile.
Traditional blacksmith and Sale Creek resident Hugh Bowie, who donated his labor to craft door hinges and latches for Poe’s in the traditional style of the 1800s, said he knows six blacksmiths willing to help build the shop at no charge.
“It’s been very gratifying to see people come spend their time and money and effort on this project,” said Carney.
A blacksmith for 38 years and a member of the Choo Choo Forge Appalachian Chapter of Blacksmiths, Bowie has demonstrated his skills a dozen times in Cades Cove at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He said he feels a similar display of his craft would be fitting with the city’s goal of having the park educate citizens about the area’s cultural history.
“There were so many blacksmith shops in this area,” he said. “I think it would be a good addition to the park.”
The shop would have two garage-style doors that open so park visitors can view the blacksmiths as they work, said Carney.
“The idea is to demonstrate and bring people in,” said Bowie. “It’s entertaining; people like to see guys sweat and get hot and dirty.”
Carney said he would like to name the shop Welch Blacksmith Shop in honor of local blacksmith Jesse Welch, whom he remembers watching as a child as he shod mules for area coal mines.
“I was always fascinated with those big arms and black hands,” he said.
Commissioner Shane Harmon expressed concern that the demonstrations may pose a safety hazard to viewers.
In response to Mayor Jim Adams’ question about insurance coverage, Bowie said the Choo Choo Forge group carries insurance for its demonstrations at Cades Cove, where every blacksmith must sign a release. He told commissioners he would find out if the policy would also cover the demonstrations in the new shop.
“I think it will be an asset in the future,” said Harmon of the blacksmith shop. “As far as me voting to spend the citizens’ money, I just can’t do it right now.”
Adams said the city has already agreed to supply $5,000 in city funds to build a sixth pavilion at the park.
Commissioners voted to table the issue at the May 10 and 24 City Commission meetings and will consider the request at the June 7 meeting.
Carney said he would like to have the shop built in time for the Sept. 1 dedication of Poe’s Tavern.
“We’ve got a unique opportunity with these people,” he said of the blacksmiths willing to donate their time to build the shop. “This can happen for a pittance really, if you look at what you get for $5,000.”