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HILLSVILLE — The Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Foundation is on the verge of two milestones — opening the first two floors of the historic home of the late coal magnate to the public and hiring a program manager.
The original structure on Main Street next to the historic courthouse pre-dated the Civil War, but it went through a major transformation when Southwest Virginia rail and coal magnate George L. Carter renovated it to serve as the Hillsville home for him and his wife Mayetta.
Carter ran iron furnaces, set up mining operations and towns in Virginia and West Virginia, built railroad lines and supported formation of East Tennessee State University with the donation of land and money.
The Carter Home Foundation has worked for years to remove vestiges of the county offices that the place housed for more than three decades and to reopen it as a community center and tourist destination.
Business development specialist Dallas Garrett coordinated the renovation and use of grants at the home.
With available grants almost exhausted and work in the lower floors of the house almost done, foundation members have turned their attention to find an employee to coordinate activities at the home.
About $260,000 worth of renovations are nearly wrapped up, Garrett estimated. That leaves about $380,000 for the upper three floors.
“The first and second floors are just about ready to go,” he said. “We figure by the time we get this process of hiring a manager finished by August, we’ll be ready to go.”
He expects the foundation to be able to start scheduling events by late August or early September.
“By the end of the first year, we’d like to have one event per day scheduled,” Garrett said. “That’s pretty aggressive.”
Arts, music, crafts, history, weddings, tour bus visits, and bed and breakfast services are activities that the foundation has discussed hosting.
Garrett believes that the Carter Home will be like the historic courthouse next door — a point of interest for tourists and travelers, a destination.
About 40 volunteers have been working on the building, along with hired contractors. Garrett says he’s going to start looking for appliance donations soon.
The Carter Home foundation recently started advertising for an employee to coordinate educational and special events, tours and to manage daily activities and arrange for food and beverage services.
The pay is listed as $1,000 per month for the first three months, then Garrett envisions that the manager will receive a commission of 20 percent of profits from the events.
“We’re hoping we get somebody excited about this that will come in.”
Garrett expects the $380,000 needed to continue renovations will come in fairly quickly once the Carter Home is operating again.
Employment opportunities may grow if the home reaches the goal of an everyday event, he said. The home might need staff members such as a maintenance person and gardener.
As a volunteer since 2002, Janette Thompson believes opportunities for the Carter Home are endless.
Her brother worked in Carter’s mines, and she can remember family members getting their tonsils out at the hospital of the mining community of Caretta because her brother’s insurance was good there.
Bringing bus tours in and completing the kitchen work are two things that need to happen to make the place a success.
“With all the buses going down the interstate, surely we can pull some of those off, especially when they have another day to get to the beach,” she said.
She can’t remember a day when people haven’t come up to her, saying they were from Iowa or St. Louis, to ask about the house.
Thompson can also see dining out on the wraparound porch, one level above the street.
If she were 40 years younger, she might have tried for the program manager position herself, because she’s invested a lot of time in the home and wants it to become successful.
“We need to get the events going,” Thompson said. “We need to come up with something that’s our specialty.”