Uncovering history; Tennessee marble floor discovered under years of carpet | News
When Teresa Horn was removing stale and worn carpets in the lobby of her building in downtown Maryville, she was sure there would be concrete underneath and had already hired someone to lay the tiles.
On closer inspection with eyes and a crowbar, Horn saw exactly what she had – marble floors that were absolutely gorgeous. She canceled that tile order, called in some experts and after a week of carpet removal and glue scraping, she couldn’t be happier.
As it turns out, the marble is Tennessee marble, quarried either here in Blount County at the Tennessee Marble Company’s Friendsville site or one of the other numerous East Tennessee sites, said Josh Buchanan, a spokesman for the Tennessee Marble Company.
The company has six quarries from which the natural stone is extracted. The property in Friendsville is 250 acres. One of the quarries is located in Forks of the River in Knoxville.
“It’s definitely Tennessee marble,” Buchanan said after visiting Doug and Teresa Horn’s building. The building is Preservation Plaza in downtown Maryville and was home to the Blount National Bank decades ago. Teresa said the building was completed in 1922 and will celebrate its centenary next year.
The quarries in Blount County produce marbles with distinct shades of pink, while the one in Knoxville is more known for its Quaker grays, Buchanan said. He pointed out that most of the Tennessee marbles contain some of the pink tones. There are other pink marbles around the world, but none that share the properties of the marble here, he added.
Tennessee marble can be seen in our nation’s Capitol, Grand Central Terminal in New York City, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC
Horn said the marble in her lobby had likely been carpeted for 20 years or more. She and her husband Doug bought the building in 2006 and the carpet was already installed. The discovery of marble came as a complete shock, she said.
Conservation was only an option
The name they gave the property, Preservation Plaza, speaks to this couple’s passion for preserving the past. There was no other option but to restore the marble to its original size, Teresa said.
Doug is the founder and head of Quality Financial Concepts and a certified financial planner. Teresa also works in the business as a Relationship Manager. They founded the Maryville Downtown Association.
The historic stone is located in the building’s lobby at 200 E. Broadway Ave. It measures 350 square feet or more, said Julie Murrell of Knoxville Marble Polish, the company the Horns hired to work on the floor. She and her husband Bob own the company and spent four evenings sanding and polishing the floor.
Marble is indeed their family business. Bob’s grandfather worked for Candoro Marble in Knoxville. Bob has been teaching restoration for 40 years.
“I sent Teresa some photos of a house I took about two weeks ago in Sequoyah Hills, where it was a similar situation pulling up carpet and finding marble,” Murrell said. She said, ‘We are Preservation Plaza. We’ll definitely save it if we can. ‘”
Murrell said companies today aren’t installing marble the way they did in the Maryville building. There are no grout lines or uneven surfaces. It’s one floor.
“All we had to do was sand off the remaining adhesives that they couldn’t remove,” Murrell said. “We sanded and polished these. No coatings. Nothing superficial. Just the marble itself. “
Teresa was one of those who got down on her hands and knees and tore up the carpet and glue. It took four of them over three hours, but it was definitely worth it, she said.
The Horns have done extensive work on this old building, which currently has 29 tenants on multiple floors. The bank vault is still there, along with an extremely heavy piece of its outdated equipment. New windows were installed on some floors.
Buchanan said 100 years ago when this building was built there were many quarries in the area.
“By the 1920s there were likely 25 to 50 or more quarries active in Knox County and Grainge and Hawkins, counties and here in Blount County,” he said. “A lot of stones and tiles were used in this plant here in Friendsville. It’s safe to say it was cut here, but it could have been mined out of East Knoxville. “
Knoxville was even nicknamed “Marble City”.
According to Buchanan, it was common during this period for banks to use marble for their construction work. Where else can this Tennessee marble be found – it’s all over.
“In some cases it has been sent all over the world,” he explained. Apple has been one of the Tennessee Marble Company’s largest customers for the past several years. The company has brought the Tennessee natural stone to some of its freestanding stores, including Japan, China, and Australia, Buchanan said.
“Every major city in every state in the country has Tennessee marble in their buildings,” he said, adding those built around 1940 in particular.
Near home is Tennessee Marble Company Tennessee Marble at Maryville Municipal Center. The floors are made of light rose marble.
“The statue of Sam Houston in front of this building is on a stone pillar that is our Tennessee marble,” said Buchanan.
The Friendsville quarry opened in the 1880s. Monica Gawet is the owner and president of the Tennessee Marble Company, which was founded there in 1993. The quarry had been closed before it was taken over by Gawet. She followed her father and grandfather into the stone industry.
Much left in the ground
The marble, Buchanan said, has been in the ground for 500 million years. On the coral reefs and shores of the western edge of what is now the Appalachian Mountains, ancient ocean tides are said to have crashed, compressing tiny fossilized marine animals and other organic material to form the stone. The ingredients sunlight, water, earth, air and fire have come together to preserve these works of art.
And while a lot of stone has come from the Tennessee Marble Company’s quarries, Buchanan said they won’t run out anytime soon. There are still hundreds of thousands of tons of stone here. “We will be mining quarries for 300 years,” said Buchanan.
As for the Preservation Plaza, Teresa Horn said she would continue to work on areas and possibly even uncover more marble. The horns are looking for old photos and newspaper clippings in preparation for the building’s big anniversary next year.
Murrell said she was thrilled when Horn called her to restore the marble on Preservation Plaza.
“When someone calls with a project like this, it speeds it up,” she said. “We left our day projects to do double shifts and evenings. We try to really prioritize these things, because this is where our passion lies – the conserving side of our actions. “