SCA Travels to Historic Downtown Sewanee

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the March 7 Sewanee Civic Association dinner meeting, members and guests travelled 150 years back in time to preview the Sewanee Historic Downtown Exhibit and Walking Tour. During the business portion of the meeting, SCA President Kiki Beavers updated the membership on the Community Chest and other SCA projects.

Meg Beasley and Mary O’Neill, in conjunction with the Sewanee Trust for Historic Preservation and University, undertook the project two years ago with the goal of creating a history that was “relevant, accessible, and impactful.” “We see this as a beginning,” Beasley stressed, welcoming input from the community. Citing the challenges of source material, Beasley pointed to George Fairbanks’ 1869 lease book in which lot numbers do not correspond to leasehold numbers. Fairbanks bought lot No. 1, which was lease No. 12. To compound the confusion, the lease owner and business owner frequently differed. P.S. Brooks Dry Goods Store occupied Fairbanks’ leasehold. When Fairbanks died, lease ownership passed to his wife who in turn passed ownership to Mrs. Brooks. In 1963 ownership passed to the Hamilton family, then to the Taylor family in 1984, becoming the site of Taylor’s Mercantile. When the original Brooks store burned, it was rebuilt in stone, Beasley noted. Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, another key resource, color coded buildings by material. The 1893 map coded all but two downtown buildings yellow, for wood, with only the fire-prone blacksmith shop and tin shop built in stone.

The exhibit’s voyage into the past comes to life in the details. Bishop Quintard encouraged European craftsman to come to Sewanee. The Swiss Ruef ’s opened a meat market where generous Mr. Ruef did not charge widows. The Scotch Wadham family opened a bakery at the top of the village next to the gate and fence erected in 1902 for “keeping out vagrants and undesirable roaming stock,” according to a University document cited by Beasley. Built in 1872, Shenanigan’s originated as Hoge and Miller’s General Store. Jackson’s Garage is now The Frame Gallery. In 1946, Sewanee had four gas stations, in spite of the fact that during World War II the University faculty decreased to 22 professors and one year graduated only 11 students. The Blue Chair began as Sherrill’s Café, charging 25 cents for a plate lunch in 1942. And lest exhibit visitors browsing old maps and site addresses become confused, Beasley pointed out University Avenue was once called Tennessee Avenue.

The Sewanee Historic Downtown exhibit housed at the University Archives is open 1-5 p.m., Monday–Friday, through Dec. 15 <>. To download the interactive walking tour app visit <>.

Turning to business, Beavers said the Community Chest still had $5,600 to raise to reach its $106,425 goal by April to avoid a shortfall necessitating reducing funding to grant recipients. Initiatives supported by the Community Chest include Sewanee Elementary School and the Sewanee Childcare Center, elder needs, the July 4th parade, animal welfare through MARC and a diverse array of other programs and projects that make Sewanee and the surrounding community the welcoming place it is. Donations can be made through pledges, payroll deduction, PayPal Giving, Giving Matter, donating online at

or mailing a check to P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

Partnering with the Community Action Committee, the SCA will host a Nonfood Supply Drive March 20-30 to provide residents in-need with non-food items that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits. Look for donation bins on campus, at Taylor’s Mercantile, and Regions Bank, or drop off items at the CAC office 9-11am, Monday through Friday. Taylor’s and the CAC office will also accept monetary donations.

Contact Ken Taylor or email <> to join the effort to erect a memorial to Barbara Schlichting at Hamilton Park, located across from Taylor’s.

At the May 1 annual meeting, the membership will vote on the 2023-2024 budget and slate of officers and announce the community service award recipients. Send community service award nominations by March 20 to <> or by mail to the Sewanee Civic Association, P.O. Box 222, Sewanee, TN 37375.

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