Lebanon City Council voted Tuesday to help Pickett Chapel.
The approved ordinance, proposed by Councilor Fred Burton, gives $10,000 from a reserve fund to help with costs for Pickett Chapel and the Roy Bailey African American History Center and Museum.
Pickett Chapel, located at 209 East Market St., has been empty for years. The building is the oldest brick building in Lebanon, and in 1866 it housed Pickett Chapel Methodist Church, the first church for blacks in the city.
Phillip Hodge, an archeologist for the state of Tennessee and lifelong resident of Lebanon, spoke at the meeting in support of the Pickett Chapel Restoration Project.
Hodge said that last year he began volunteering his time to the Wilson County Black History Committee to explore the archeological potential of Pickett Chapel.
“From the beginning, even in it’s current state, I knew Pickett Chapel was an archeological and historical gem,” Hodge said. “You can’t stand in that sanctuary and not feel anything but awe.”
Hodge said that after a summer of fieldwork at the Pickett Chapel location, they found it contains a remarkable archeological record.
“With the help of MTSU archeological students, we found 200 years of Lebanon’s history lies untouched beneath the ground at Pickett Chapel,” Hodge said. “In my professional career, I’ve worked archeological sites in every southeastern state and in every county in Tennessee and I’ve never seen a site quite like Pickett Chapel.”
Hodge said the site contains a “near complete range of historic period artifacts and features” and exhibits a “truly remarkable state of preservation.”
According to Hodge, Pickett Chapel was built in 1827 and was occupied for 174 consecutive years, first as a white church, then as an African-American church after the Civil War and finally as a community theatre.
“Pickett Chapel has been here since the beginning, witnessing nearly every era of American history as it unfolded in our hometown,” Hodge said. “No other historic resource, dare I say no other place in Lebanon, can make that claim.”
Hodge said he thought historic preservation was a huge business and something that could be seen as an asset to the city.
“Investment in historic preservation is what makes Lebanon different from other places and provides a competitive advantage, more so than an identical string of restaurants or establishments,” Hodge said.
Hodge encouraged the council to support the historic Pickett Chapel project.
When renovation of the chapel is complete, the site will serve as the site for the Roy Bailey African American History Center and Museum.
“Pickett Chapel is more uniquely suited to tell the story of Lebanon and its people, all of its people, than any other surviving resource,” Hodge said.
Hodge said a harvest wine and cheese gathering will be held Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel to help fund restoration efforts.
The council also approved, on first reading, an ordinance that would authorize the purchase of Tasers for the Police Department.
Police Chief Scott Bowen noted a recent incident in which a suspect used a knife to threaten an officer. Police ultimately used a beanbag shotgun – a shotgun converted to shoot beanbags instead of bullets – to stop the suspect.
“These Tasers are made to get people to comply,” Bowen said. “You know if it came to it, which would you rather use, a Taser or actually shoot someone?”
Bowen also said that when Tasers are implemented, injuries of officers and of suspects usually go down.
Bowen said the department already has three instructors, and if approved, officers would have to go through a course to get certified to carry the Taser.
“There’s usually no injury at all when they’re used in the right way,” Bowen said.
He said the department hopes to buy 50 Tasers and accompanying accessories using drug fund money.
The total contract price is $61,213.38.