Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some Rock City Barns are tough to see

hen driving down the highway, there are countless things that you can't see that used to be in plain sight of everybody. These changes aren't necessarily by design. Landscapes change. Trees are planted. Farmland ceases to be harvested. Kudzu moves in. Overgrowth is unmaintained. There are lots of things that you could see decades ago, but for various reasons are hidden today. This Rock City barn is one of them.

This is a Rock City barn

Thanks to my resources, I knew exactly where this barn was. I couldn't see it. I was driving west of Crossville, TN along highway TN68 and I passed it. I turned around here in the Grassy Cove community and could make out a small portion of that barn I was searching for. I pulled over on the shoulder and I'm not sure how anyone would see the advertisement for Rock City anymore. The barn was rather close to the street and it was located at a bend in the road with the words at eye level. Decades ago, before all the trees and overgrowth obscured the view, this was an ideal ad placement. Perhaps in the winter, when all the leaves are gone, you can still make it out.

My map showed a small street at this location. I didn't drive all this way to miss seeing it. I drove the car down a small incline onto a dirt road (using road in the loosest sense of the word.) I had come closer because now I had a clear view of the unpainted side of the barn with its rusty tin roof.

The Other side of a Rock City Barn

I really don't want to trespass on anybody's land. (for their sake, and my own - I don't want to startle a farmer and certainly don't want to be chased by a farmer with a rifle.) There was a road. It didn't look like it goes anywhere, but it's a road. There's also a fence. I can get to the other side, the painted side, by walking the road and not crossing the fence. It was worth it.

When You See Rock City, You See the Best

When You See
You See The Best

It certainly looks like this barn has been maintained. I suppose it really is visible in the winter months when there are no leaves.

On, this is designated as #RCB 42-18-02. If you compare my picture to the one here, which is three years older, it does seem as if this barn has been repainted at some point. I don't know if that photographer went further down the dirt road or could see it from the street.

In the Capps book, this is known as barn #27, the "George Kemmer" barn. Included in the book is a tiny picture taken by a Rock City barn painter after it was painted. The picture was taken from the street when there were no trees or overgrowth blocking the view.

In the Jenkins book, this is on page 149-E.
See it on a map HERE.
Lat & Lon: 35.849252oN \ -84.918357oW 1018

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Millions have seen this Rock City Barn

If you put up an advertisement, you'd naturally want to put it in a place where many people would see it. In the days before interstates, this would usually be the heavily traveled US highways, which is one reasons why most of the Rock City Barns appear alongside one. Today, Most people use the interstate, and there are a small number of these Rock City barns visible from one. This one is along I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville in Roane County.

Millions Have Seen Rock City

Millions Have Seen
Have You ?

Interstate 40 is one of the most important and heavily traveled freeways in the country. It is one of a few that nearly reaches from coast to coast in the country. Plus, Millions of motorists drive through this area every year.

This specific barn's message is visible when traveling eastbound near mile marker 358. This is seen just moments after crossing a local road, Buttermilk Road, that this barn is located on. It is located East of Kingston, TN and between Exit 356, which is TN58 north to Oak Ridge and exit 360, which is the access to Buttermilk Road and the Bradbury community. If you take the Buttermilk Road exit and drive to the barn, this is a view you get right until you cross underneath the Interstate.

Millions Have Seen Rock City. Have You?

Unfortunately, there is not a view from the road where the smaller barn does not partially obstruct the view. This barn with its message and oversized question mark is used to store hay and cure tobacco.

For me, the real amazement, was the other side, which had an unmaintained for years Ruby Falls advertisement. Sometimes, it seems like the Ruby Falls advertisement crew had a "Anything you can do, I can do sometimes" mindset. I have seen other instances of Ruby Falls signs being on the other side of a Rock City barn, or even a Rock City barn being repainted as Ruby Falls. However, these days, just a few, if any, of their barns get repainted.

Ruby Falls barn


Lookout Mt. Chattanooga

Although the paint looks like rust upon a metal roof, it might not be that simple. Of course, if that is all it was, the color of the paint would actually be their "Ruby" color which would fall somewhere between a Deep Red to a pink. However, traditionally, their ads are not just words on a blank or unpainted background. Usually, between the background and the words, one was colored Ruby and the other Turquoise. If anything was kept white, it would be the text on a ruby or turquoise background. There are a couple of reasons why it might not appear this way, such as one paint chips easy or rusts in a different way.

One reason why this barn wouldn't be maintained is you can't actually see this side from the interstate! (Unless you could catch it at a sharp angle through the trees.) You'd have to be traveling along Buttermilk Road to see this, and that road doesn't really go anywhere, except for highway US 70 which is a couple of miles up the road.

On this is designated #RCB 42-73-02. From their picture, which is 4 years older than mine, you can tell it's been repainted in the interim.
See it on a map HERE.
Lat & Lon: 35.8612oN \ -84.4057oW
In the Capps book, this is #15, the Malinda Eblen barn.
In The Jenkins book, this appears as a color photo on page 65. This photo from the mid 90's also was taken after a repaint and appears on the Rock City website HERE.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tray featuring Jim Harrison's artwork

Here is a tray published by Rock City in 1998.

Rock City Tray with the artwork of Jim Harrison

According to the text on the back of the tray describing this painting:
The original painting, oil on Canvas, by Jim Harrison was destroyed in a fire. More of Jim's work, along with this "Rock City" barn can be found in the book His World Remembered. Jim Harrison, born in Leslie Georgia, lives in Denmark South Carolina, his hometown since childhood, where his gallery is located in an old store front on main street.

Here's the back of the tray if you would like to read the rest.

Here is his book, which was published in 1982, but is now out of print.

The original Rock City painting from 1975 was reproduced with 1500 serial numbered copies and sold for $40. If you can find a copy now, it would sell for approx. $425. This tray, which measures 17.5" x 13" is available on Jim Harrison's website for $15.

Jim Harrison specializes in rural scenes, especially images of vintage coca-cola advertising. Check him and his artwork out at his website.