Just one week away, the dreams and hard work of members of the Charleston community and Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society will soon be reality.
At 2:15 p.m. Friday, a ceremonial ribbon will be snipped and the Hiwassee River Heritage Center will open.
Phase I of the project included purchasing the property and stripping, then renovating the interior.
“We appreciate all of the in-kind and feet-on-the-ground help we have received to make this possible for the Charleston and Bradley County community,” said Melissa Woody, vice president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
For several months, members of the community, industry, and the historical society have worked to strip carpet, redo fixtures and reclaim the former Regions Bank building which was purchased through donations from individuals and industry in Charleston as well as many others.
“This will be a gateway to our Greenway,” said Faye Callaway, who was until recently president of CCHHS.
Joe Bryan, local educator and historian, is the newly elected president of the society.
Callaway held the presidential position for five years and has watched and worked to help make the project come to reality.
“The Center is a great opportunity for the city of Charleston. We are in a tremendous growth area and Charleston’s history and heritage through the Cherokee Trail of Tears and Civil War years will be interpreted along the Greenway trail,” Callaway said.
“Right now, it’s an opportunity for business to come in and get established. After opening, interstate signage will be placed directing travelers to the Heritage Center,” she added.
According to Callaway, 65,000 people a day travel the interstate system through the west end of Charleston.
“We want them to come check out our heritage and history, spend a few dollars at our restaurants, stores and other businesses,” she said.
Tourism in Bradley County exceeds $11 million annually, according to Woody.
“The Center is expected to provide a tremendous boost for business development here,” Callaway said.
The Greenway system will travel through Charleston’s historic district, into the TVA Cypress Grove, along and in front of the pre-Trail of Tears Lewis Ross house (Market Street Manor), northward to the pre-Civil War Henagar House (all located on Historic Highway 11 and the Concrete Highway) and then to the Hiwassee River where plans are to include an improved river park at an already popular Charleston Boat Dock.
“Be among the first to see the new exhibit currently being produced by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University,” said Woody regarding the Friday opening of the Center.
Festivities begin at 2 p.m. and last until 6 p.m.
The Hiwassee River Heritage Center is located at 8746 Hiwassee Street(Highway 11).