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Friday, May 6, 2016

History takes hard hit

Friday, July 13, 2012

The wrecking ball smashes into the historic home Wednesday on Webb Road East in Bell Buckle.
(Submitted photo)
Bell Buckle heralds tradition and history with the best of towns. From the downtown square to The Webb School, it's a corner of the county where time moves slowly.

So it was quite a shock for inhabitants to drive through the main drag this week and see a historic, century-old home reduced to rubble.

This confused many a passerby on Wednesday, and prompted a posting on the Times-Gazette website by blogger Steve Mills. Several confounded comments by readers showed the early effects of the school's decision to raze the old home.

A pile of rubble -- and a bathtub, one of only a few items salvaged from the home -- remained Thursday morning.
(T-G Photo by David Melson)
Webb purchase

Less than three years ago, the property at 309 Webb Road East in Bell Buckle was purchased by The Webb School, a homecoming of sorts for the property that was originally owned by the school's founder.

It made logical sense to purchase the home as it came onto the market -- it was surrounded on every side by Webb School property. The school even worked with the Bedford County Historical Society to erect a sign commemorating the home's most famed inhabitants.

Famed history

The property -- which had three owners previous to its most recent purchase -- was also briefly home to Sain Stables, where 1966 Tennessee Walking Horse World Grand Champion Shaker's Shocker was trained.

Elizabeth F. "Betty" Sain was the stud's rider, and made history as the first female to win the blue ribbon on the biggest stage.

"It was reported to me that it was torn down on Wednesday evening, and no one seemed to know why," said Sain, who now resides in Lynchburg. "We've got a lot of good pictures of the old place, though, and thank goodness for that."

Plans fall through

When The Webb School purchased the home, they considered using it as a welcome center to greet and host parents and donors, a meeting space for faculty and trustees, an office space, or housing for the headmaster or assistant headmaster.

According to the school, the plans and the realities of renovation didn't align as they had hoped.

"We made every effort to have people evaluate the condition of the Sain house to determine if it was feasible to use as a residence, office, or to sell it and have it moved," said Joe Iorio, The Webb School business manager and assistant head of school. "We've also had numerous conversations with the mayor and other city officials about the house as we considered its use."

Costs interfere

Iorio said that Webb officials had an engineer, architect, housing inspector and local contractors assess the house and estimate costs.

"It was determined that renovations and upgrades to comply with current building and use codes would be cost prohibitive," he added.

Selling and relocating the home was also deemed unfeasible for structural reasons by local contractors.

No final decision

Presently, The Webb School Board of Trustees is working on a master building plan for the campus, and has not yet made any final decisions on what to do with the property at 309 Webb Road East.

The Webb School does plan to leave the historical marker on site to honor the property's historic past.