Amish “Hand-Demolish” Historic Tennessee Building

Who to call when you need your building “hand-demolished”? To the general public, “Amish” often equates to handcrafted – meaning hand-milked cows, handmade quilts, hand-built furniture, and the like (whether that perception is always accurate is another question).

And in that spirit, one Tennessee city found that an Amish hands-on approach was exactly what they needed to remove a historic structure. The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports that an Amish crew of workers has been deconstructing the city’s 140-year-old Hodgson/Dabbs building, brick-by-brick.

Apparently the Amish crew were the only ones willing to do it by hand in such a meticulous fashion. It couldn’t be knocked down by bulldozer or wrecking ball, since it’s too close to other buildings.

It’s not clear why the building is being removed. The man who purchased the property says that they will recycle what they can, and that the bricks will be used in another project.

It sounds like this building is probably being removed for new development. You would think a building of such age would be under some sort of historical protection. I always hate to see fine old buildings go, but it happens. Maybe it was in poor shape.

I was hoping to find a video in the inverse spirit of this 2014 time-lapse barn-raising video, showing the building coming down. The best for now are these still shots by photographer Henry Taylor for the Leaf-Chronicle.

Maybe we’ll see something like that emerge later, as this has been going on since last week, and it looks like there is still a ways to go based on this follow-up story from yesterday. As that time they had taken down the roof, and gotten through half of the second floor:

The clan these Amish belong to is unidentified. While Tennessee now has about a dozen Amish settlements, there are none in this county, nor in any of the surrounding counties. One possibility is the Guthrie, Kentucky community, lying just 15 miles from downtown Clarksville.

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    5 Comments

    1. Patti Bravard

      Way to go!!

      It is great seeing this kind of thing, where as much of the building that can be re-used is being re-used. Fantastic!! We need to do a lot more of this and save our resources. Wish we more great thinkers and doers like this!

      1. Well I guess that is a good plan B if it has to be done, though it’s too bad to see buildings like this come down. I really like that faded white paint brick look. Wish we knew more of the back story of this building. In any case I think the combination of the building’s age, Amish involvement, and the deconstruction method made this a newsworthy story (2 stories published on it so far in the Leaf-Chronicle!). You don’t often see buildings being taken apart by hand.

    2. Camille

      Clarksville historic building

      I’m near the Clarksville community, and this year, the town officials approved a plan to build a multi-million dollar event center in the middle of downtown. This demo is just the beginning of ways to bring more revenue to the city while making the traffic in this area more congested. It’s great that they are recycling the materials and entrusting the Amish to carry out such an important task, but they are not so much concerned with keeping character and history intact as they are with making money.

      1. Patti Bravard

        Carrying things too far...

        In response to Camille’s comment, I live in a community that is ‘a dying small town’. A local grocery chain bought up part of the block, one business moved, another ‘old’one was supposed to be torn down so they could put in a 2nd gas station and enlarge the store. Suddenly part of the community thought that we should preserve the building and fought to do that. Now, we have a preserved old building that hold a small business and one apt, the business that moved could have stayed in his old building and nothing happened with enlarging the store or the gas station. We REALLY could have used the gas station and an enlarged grocery. We didn’t need one more old building in town to be preserved. I agree keeping the old intact is a great idea in theory, but being a patron of the town the enlarged grocery and a 2nd station that gave gas discounts would have been great. In reality, these old buildings take a fortune to upgrade or pay huge amounts in utilities to try and stay warm in winter (northern winter state) and now cool in the summer. The brick is falling apart, another coat of paint was slapped on to try and at least make it look better. The interior, had been being taken apart (as it was being torn down anyway) to help the ‘historical museum’ that needed original flooring, etc. In the end, the building has not been preserved, just ‘kept’. We need more business here. The town turned down a brewery that went 8 miles down the road and has helped the town they moved to tremendously. It tried to allow a big box store to go in when we really didn’t need another one of those in the area, where at the most 2 employees are sharing part time. The big box store came in, but just outside town. It really did not go with the rest of the town’s look regardless. It is great your area is at least trying to get something going. In a way, having the Amish tear down the building and recycling the materials keeps the history alive while helping the area thrive. Ideals are wonderful, when the area can afford to have them, otherwise there are people to feed and jobs needed. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the idea of preserving things, for history, and am all for it when it doesn’t put the area at risk. Too many times it falls back to the locals to pay more in taxes to restore a building, then volunteers to run it. I can barely afford to do upkeep on my home, let alone pay more taxes for a building to set and look great but serve no real purpose other than to be preserved in a town that is all preserved… right down to its death. I wish there was a better solution for all involved, both there and here!!

        1. Camille

          Clarksville historic building

          I totally get what you’re saying. Safety matters in the decision to restore these old properties and often enough, it isn’t worth the investment unless that investor has deep pockets. In Clarksville’s case, there has been lots of historic preservation; the event center is a great idea but the location is bad as there wont be adjustments for increased traffic and our taxes will probably go up to pay for it all 🙁