ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – As News Channel 11 celebrates 70 years of broadcasting to the Tri-Cities region, we’re also celebrating the rich history of Tennessee’s second oldest town.
St. Marks was the first Black Presbyterian Church in Rogersville when it opened its doors in 1875.
Students from the all-African-American Swift Memorial Junior College and Swift College attended services there. The church dissolved in 2002, but big things are happening to the building in 2023.
The church sat vacant for about a decade until Ella Jo Bradley went to the Chamber of Commerce asking for help to convert the church into a Children’s Theatre.
Bradley worked to place the church on the National Register of Historic Places. She later developed Alzheimer’s and could not continue the project, and it sat vacant again.
The Rogersville-Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce picked up the project, writing grants to restore the building and turn it into a mixed-use space with an entrepreneur center and event space. A museum will showcase the history of the church.
“Everybody wanted to see the church saved,” said Nancy Barker, the Executive Director of the Rogersville-Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce. “Even though it’s got a different purpose, it’s still going to be a part of the community and, of course, its historic significance is something that we all wanted to maintain as much as we could. It’s important for the people in the Black community that it’s been such a part of their history all these years to have that memory to go back to and to have that history that they can share with their children.”
The former church is set to have six different office spaces for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rentals. The event space will be able to seat about 200 people. Barker hopes it will be open and ready for use sometime in 2024.