A deteriorating landmark between Hendersonville and Gallatin will serve as the backdrop for the first fundraiser for a new non-profit group focused on preserving Sumner County’s historical and architectural character.
Incorporated in 2020, the Preservation Foundation was founded by District 6 County Commissioner Deanne DeWitt amidst an effort to save the Comer Barn.
The 8,500-square-feet barn built in the 1930’s between Gallatin and Hendersonville was deeded to the county by Rogers Group, who operates a quarry adjacent to the property, in 2016.
Since then, county leaders have debated restoring or repairing the dilapidated structure with taxpayer funds.
The county also leases the Comer House next to the barn from Rogers Group for office space for the Sumner County Tourism office.
In August 2020, county commission members voted to appropriate $500,000 toward preserving the barn. Half of the funds came from a state grant and the other half came from the county hospital fund.
DeWitt, who advocated for the funding, also negotiated a memorandum of understanding with Rogers Group stating, in part, that the barn will be developed as a tourism destination for the county.
It was her efforts to save the Comer Barn that led to the formation of the Preservation Foundation, DeWitt says.
“The number one goal was to save the barn and we figured there would have to be a fundraising component with private funds in order to do that,” she said.
Joining DeWitt, who is the foundation’s president and founder, are executive board members Jenna Hunter, April Barker, Kerri Ross and Meghan Breinig.
While saving the Comer Barn was the inspiration for forming the new non-profit, DeWitt said that it won’t be the foundation’s only project.
“Saving the iconic Comer Barn inspired our creation, but our mission is much broader than that,” she noted. “There are projects in Portland, Hendersonville and Gallatin waiting for some attention.
“If we want to be a community that thrives, we have to be willing to make these investments,” she added.
The BarnRaising Music & Fall Festival, the first major fundraiser for the new Preservation Foundation of Sumner County, will be held from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16 in front of the Comer Barn.
The event hopes to draw families and music lovers from across the region with a breadth of talent, festival activities and food trucks.
The musical line-up will include several songwriters and bands, including Cory Farley, Nathan Thomas, MergingBlue, Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr., Chris Golden, John Berry and a surprise guest. 95.5 NASH ICON will be live on site with call-ins and giveaways.
Oak Grove Farms will offer market items and an abundance of pumpkins. There will be several activities for families hosted by partners Lightbridge Academy, author Randi Bruce, the Goddard School and more.
A food truck park will include several local eateries and beer from local brewers Half Batch and Briarscratch. VIP tickets will be sold for $75 each and will give access to covered seating, heavy appetizers, beverages, beer and tastings courtesy of Ole Smoky Distillery.
For tickets and details about the event, go to www.sumnerpreservation.org/events/.
When asked what the next step is for the Comer Barn and where that project stands, DeWitt noted that the project will be on the agenda of the county’s Historic Commission meeting at 3 p.m. on Sept. 7 at the Sumner County Administration Building.
“I would urge anyone who would like to learn more about the project to attend that meeting,” she said.