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Kimsey College never used as that
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Architect R.H. Hunt, a prominent Chattanooga architect, was given the contract for the building; construction began in the fall of 1932. It was completed the following year, but the state decided it did not want a Junior College in the Copper Basin, which was so far away from population centers.

An occasional series on the 17 sites in Polk County that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The building that is still known as the Kimsey Junior College building was placed on the National Register in September, 1992 even though it was never used as a junior college. The building off Hwy. 68 north of Ducktown was listed for its significance in education, law and architecture in the Copper Basin.

According to the nomination developed by Karen Daniels, then preservation planner with the Southeast Tennessee Development District, construction of the building was financed by money from the lease of the township school lands. In 1916, this section was leased for 25 years for $10,000 a year. In 1931, the Township commissioners proposed to build a $150,000 Junior College on school lands.

Some residents were infuriated that the money was going to be used for construction of a new building instead of maintenance of existing schools in Ducktown, Isabella and Copperhill. Fifty residents, led by C.B. Dalton, filed suit against the Township commissioners, claiming they had no authority to build the building. The case was heard by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ruled that the Township commissioners were acting in compliance with the Private Acts of 1929, thus guaranteeing they could build and maintain the Junior College.

Architect R.H. Hunt, a prominent Chattanooga architect, was given the contract for the building; construction began in the fall of 1932. It was completed the following year, but the state decided it did not want a Junior College in the Copper Basin, which was so far away from population centers.

The building sat vacant for five years. In 1938, the Ducktown High School moved into the building and stayed until the mid-1960s. The building housed both a vocational and regular high school, which provided the highest level of education that many residents received before they went to work in the copper mines. The building housed Ducktown Elementary School until 2007.

The building remains the only architect-designed building in the Copper Basin and is a monument to public architecture of the late 1930s. The other school buildings in the Basin were either late 19th century frame buildings, which were destroyed long ago, or are 1950s modern buildings. Kimsey Junior College is also the most ornately decorated building in the Basin. Because little expense was spared in its construction, the community received a building that could have been constructed in a larger city.

The building is a two-story collegiate gothic style building constructed of red brick with terra cotta detailing on the central three-story tower and on the end wings. The central tower of the building has terra cotta and stone spandrels, cornice and quoins. The windows on the third story have round arched heads. The entrance and windows are surrounded by stone.

The wings on each end of the building house the auditorium, gymnasium and library. The windows and doors of the wings are surrounded in stone The only alteration to the exteriors was the construction of stair towers on each end, one on the front and one in the rear, to help the building meet fire codes.

The interior of the building was designed to be fireproof, with terrazzo tile floors, tile wainscoting on the plaster walls, and lockers built into the corridor walls.

The original light fixtures remain in the entries and in the auditorium.. The auditorium is the most altered room in the buildings. Its flooring was carpeted and the original seats removed. The plaster pilasters around the stage are original, as is the decorative plaster work above the stage and on the second story balcony. The library and gym were retained in their original configuration and fixtures, with wood and tile floors, tile wainscoting, plaster walls and plaster ceilings.

A contributing building to the historic site is the pump house on Hwy. 68, designed by R.H. Hunt in 1932. It has stone lettering of “Pumping Station Kimsey Junior College” on the front.


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