Build it and they will come…

 Conceptual Plan for
National Coal Miners' Museum
at Coal Creek Unveiled

28 June 2007

Dick Drummond, David R. Thomas, Jacob Vowell, Mary Slover Roberts, George Camp, Dore Irish, and Phillip Francis were just a few of the stars on display Thursday night at City Hall when Lake City Mayor Buck Wilson unveiled the final conceptual plan for the National Coal Miners’ Museum at Coal Creek.

Tommy Wade (Left) of Bullock Smith &
Partners Knoxville, and Lake City Mayor Buck Wilson
unveil the conceptual plan

A public meeting was held on 28 June 2007 for the unveiling of the final conceptual plan that will be used to obtain funding to build the museum.  The consultants have studied the area and the plan for the museum in Coal Creek.  Of course for a the museum to be successful in improving the economy of the area and preserving the rich coal mining history, the numbers have to work.  (See more detailed meeting summary at end of this page)

In the State of Tennessee, of the top 50 spots for tourism, 22 of them are in East Tennessee. The study shows that the museum would most likely attract an average of 180,000 visitors a year.  It must meet three criteria:

bulletEasy access from Interstate 75
bulletProper size
bulletSpur development of the downtown area

The proposed size of the museum is between 25,000 and 40,000 square feet.  Two possible schemes were discussed.  The museum should serve the community as a whole and be used as several things; cultural center, host traveling exhibits, dances, market, education, and include flex space.  The more uses we can get from the building, the better for the community and the success of the museum.

The layout of the museum will be so that the visitor has a valued experience which will include:

bulletLabor and Coal Mining education--An 1890s era coal mining experience
bulletA visit into the town of Coal Creek, Tennessee in the late 1800s
bulletThe Coal Creek War and labor disputes and the convict lease system
bulletThe Fraterville and Cross Mountain Mine Disasters -- Experience the disasters
bulletThe Science of coal mining today -- This will be hands-on and engaging and more like a science museum.  Focus will be on science and how we obtain coal and how we use it today.  Most folks still don't know that we get over half our country's energy from coal.  It charges our computers, our lights, our IPODs, and today's conveniences.

To view the conceptual plan developed by Bullock Smith & Partners and Gallagher & Associates, click on the images below.  Send your thoughts and ideas for the museum to:


Coal Today


Old street scene



First Floor

Second Floor

Site Plan
Click here for PDF file
of tour inside the museum
(It's worth it!)
bulletThe area was settled by immigrant Welsh coal miners in the mid 1800s.  They provided the coal that helped rebuild Knoxville and surrounding areas after the Civil War. 
bulletThe Coal Creek War was fought in 1891-1892 and was credited with abolishing the corrupt convict lease system throughout the southern states.
bulletThe Fraterville Mine Disaster of May 19, 1902 killed 216.  Disasters like Fraterville raised public awareness about the dangers of early 20th century coal mining and led to the creation of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and safer mining conditions in mines across the country.
bulletThe Cross Mountain Mine Disaster of December 9, 1911 was one of the first successful rescue operations led by the U.S. Bureau of Mines.  Five of the eighty-nine men and boys trapped in the mine were rescued by engineers and apparatus crews, but eighty-four perished.
To celebrate this mining history and preserve it for educating future generations, Mayor Buck Wilson of Lake City (formerly the town of Coal Creek), Tennessee is working with many others to build the Coal Miners' Museum of Coal Creek and connect it to the many historic sites found throughout the watershed. 

Build a museum and they will come...

National Coal Miners’ Museum at Lake City (Coal Creek)
28 June Meeting Summary:

The design team performing a feasibility study for the proposed National Coal Miners’ Museum at Lake City (Coal Creek) presented their final study to Mayor Buck Wilson and City Council members before a public audience last night at City Hall in Lake City.  The proposed museum, to be located on a site in downtown Lake City, convenient to Interstate 75, will “celebrate the region’s dramatic coal mining heritage through unique interactive experiences.”  The museum will tell the story of the Coal Creek Wars of 1891-92, which led to the abolition of the convict leasing system through out the South.  It will also relate the heroism and courage of the miners and rescuers associated with the Fraterville Mine Disaster of 1902 and the Cross Mountain Mine Disaster of 1911.  The Welsh educational and religious influence and Appalachian artifacts will join to “tell the story of a strong willed and resourceful people,” according to the museum mission statement, crafted by the designers.

The design team, headed by Bullock Smith & Partners, lead architect, presented two possible schemes.  The first scheme calls for a lobby of approximately 1000 SF, a small gift shop, a café, and a 12,000 SF permanent exhibition space, for a gross building area of 23,000 SF.  Terry Healy of Gallagher & Associates, the project exhibit designer, pointed out that an exhibition space of 12,000 to 15,000 SF would allow for a visitor experience of roughly 60 to 90 minutes – an optimum time for a museum visit.  The second scheme calls for a larger lobby space, a 15,000 SF permanent exhibition space, a 2,000 SF auditorium, a 2,000 SF cultural center, and a 3,000 SF temporary exhibits gallery, for a gross building area of 40,000 SF.  Tommy Wade, project manager for Bullock Smith & Partners, explained that the addition of the auditorium and temporary exhibits gallery would make the facility more of community building, allowing local organizations to rent out space for meetings and other events.  The temporary exhibits gallery would also provide the opportunity for hosting traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian and other organizations.  Such traveling exhibits might deal with labor relations in the US, Welsh or Appalachian Culture, energy or history.

Others on the design team include Land & Leisure of Dallas, Texas, an economic consulting firm, and BWSC, a Knoxville engineering firm.  The feasibility study was presented to Mayor Wilson, who will take several weeks to review, in consultation with community leaders.  Fund raising would begin soon after the final report is accepted.  Depending on which scheme is chosen, approximate project cost would be in the $12 to 20 million range.  Anticipated completion date of the museum is early 2010.

Scheme B 

Lobby                                              1,000 SF

Permanent Exhibit Space                15,000 SF

Gift Shop                                           800 SF

Administrative Suite                        2,000 SF

Exhibit Work Room                           400 SF

A/V Equipment                                  400 SF

Café                                                2,000 SF

Auditorium                                      2,000 SF

Culture Center                                 2,000 SF

Temporary Exhibit                           3,000 SF

Restrooms                                             * SF

Mechanical                                            * SF

Electrical                                               * SF

 Net Total                                      28,600 SF

Grossing Factor                                 1.4

Gross Total                                   40,040 SF

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