The Wilson County Black History Committee, the force behind the project, sponsored the event.
Pickett Chapel is listed on the National Historic Register. Local archeologists Phillip and Shannon Hodge led recent experimental archeological excavations.
“The significance of Pickett Chapel is that it’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest, building from the original layout of Lebanon. It is all that is left from the founding of the city,” said Phillip Hodge. “So, it’s 190 years old, within a couple of years or so. It’s literally one of the last buildings left from that time period.”
Hodge is a member of the WCBHC, a volunteer since 2012. His “day job” is professional archeologist and historian for Tennessee.
Pickett Chapel was built in 1827. The small church became a major factor in the formation of the local Lebanon community. It was active until 1973, when members moved to a new building and named it Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church.
The WCBHC bought the building in 2007 and began restoration efforts. For several years prior, until 2001, the building was home to the Pickett Players, a local theater company.
Since the WCBHC acquired the building, significant restoration was completed, including rebuilding a collapsed wall, replacing the roof, restoring the cupola, correcting drainage problems and making structural improvements to the interior.
The city of Lebanon awarded $5,000 to the WCBHC to help in its efforts to restore the historic building. The WCBHC also received a grant for $22,200 from the Tennessee Historical Commission for the rehabilitation of the building.
“The Wilson County Black History Committee is trying to restore it as a community events center, for museum exhibits, for history, culture and artistic events,” Hodge said.
Committee president and co-founder Mary McAdoo Harris said the evening was well attended and, though the figures weren’t yet tallied, she expected the funds to be significant.
“We feel as though this has been a success just from the amount of people who chose to attend,” said Harris.
The WCBHC worked with Melvin Gill and Associates out of Nashville, along with preservation architect Michael Emrick, to get a framework of how the work should proceed.
Harris said the project continue with other works being completed as funds allow. Support from Wilson County government, the city of Lebanon, and Mayor Philip Craighead, along with many other friends and supporters, she said, has made the work so far possible.
The evening offered a silent auction for a weekend getaway to Tina Turner’s birthplace and the Alex Haley House Museum, a membership to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and an airplane tour with private pilot Mike Russell.
When renovation is complete, Pickett Chapel will become the site of the Roy Bailey African American History Center, as well as a resource for the entire community.