Sunday, March 22, 2009

Douglass-V.O. Dobbins Demolition-Renovations Begin

A faithful group of Douglass School alumni and neighbors gathered this past weekend, March 21st, 2009, to celebrate, reminisce and look forward to the upcoming renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Community, formerly the Douglass School in Riverview.


During the short ceremony in bright sunshine and warming temperatures, a welcome to the group was given by Andrea Watterson, vice president of the Douglass Alumni Association, Kingsport. Reverend James Snapp read passages from the Scripture, and emcee Calvin Sneed gave a brief history of the auditorium and the school, and its upcoming role as Kingsport's non-profit center. When it is finished, the center will be the first complex in Tennessee to house most of its non-profit agencies all under one roof, for the convenience of Kingsport citizens. The non-profit Douglass Alumni Association of Kingsport, will also have its offices in the center, having never had a permanent home.

Visitors to the event included Commander Gerald Cardwell of the American Legion, Hammond Post 3, a non-profit organization which will occupy offices in the new V.O. Dobbins Non-Profit Community Center to be built where the Douglass Auditorium is being torn down. Mr. Cardwell told the group the American Legion is looking forward to moving into its new offices, and joining the community in remembering the Riverview heritage, and is proud to help spread the family legacy of the neighborhood.

Rev. Snapp then offered a blessing of the demolition and the upcoming renovation work, saying that "alumni and Riverview neighbors are looking to the future with a lasting legacy for those who have passed through this historic building." Rev. Snapp also thanked God "for the times that folks have lived in the building, and the history that was left there, so that it will not be forgotten, and as the time moves forward, that we will all be together in the community, and His Kingdom as well."

When the short ceremony concluded, it was time for the one thing many alumni and neighbors dreaded.. the beginning of the demolition of the historic Douglass Auditorium. On the heels of The Last Great Program at Douglass, some folks remarked how sad it was, to see this part of the building come down. With each swing of the big bucket, it was like a part of the neighborhood's soul was being torn down as well. Although sadness filled the air, there was also an air of impatience, as if 'let's get on with it' as folks watched and commented on the changing face of the neighborhood.

A crew from Luke Green Construction and C-T Construction, fired up the machinery and started the demolition process by knocking out the high windows of the auditorium. WCYB-TV, News 5 also covered the story for the 6 o'clock news. Click on this link to see the stories that aired on Saturday night at 6 and 11 PM. Bricks holding the windows in place began tumbling to the ground.. bricks themselves loosened from the strain of water leaks that, for years, had weakened the mortar and separated the bricks from the underlying structure.

A spokesman for the construction firms says, the asbestos removal had only finished several days ago, but is now finished, and the firms are under a two-week mandate to tear the auditorium structure down and have the debris hauled away.

Johnnie Mae Swaggerty offered a remembrance for the auditorium, entitled "New Facelift:

"Douglass Auditorium, you've done great.. through special programs like Douglass plays, speeches, pageants, degates and many other programs.

You've come up to the present for the use of community events like the Kingsport Arts Council, the New Vision Youth 3rd Annual Candlelifht Vigil, the Riverview Boys and Girls Club, community meetings with the Kingsport Police Department and the Riverview Easter Egg Hunt and many more.

You, Douglass Auditorium.. you will be going down today as history!

We will miss you, but a new facelift will take place and will be greatly appreciated. Douglass alumni will be proud to have a state-of-the-art conference room called the Douglass Community Center, and will take pride in it and will use it with the always-present Douglass School spirit.

Something good, something new."

Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, 3/21/09