By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — As part of its agendanight, City Council waived the remaining readings and passed a resolution authorizing the Knox County Historical Society to remove the house known as the Dan Emmett Home. A replica of Emmett’s retirement home will be built in the same location.
Over the past few months, research conducted by historical society members indicates that the current house, located near the CA&C depot, is not Emmett’s birthplace. Members undertook the research while trying to determine the feasibility of rebuilding the home following a fire last year. A 1930s manuscript written by Emmett’s relative May McClane stated that Emmett was born in a log house north of the city.
Mark Ramser, president of the historical society, previously told council members that in light of the new evidence, the historical society board felt it was inappropriate to continue promoting the current house as Emmett’s birthplace. The board proposed removing the house and building a replica of the house Emmett built when he returned to Mount Vernon in 1888; he lived in the house until his death in 1904.
In a letter to council members, Aubrey Brown asked council members to consider the impact that razing the current house would have. Brown, who holds degrees in archaeology, anthropology and history with a focus in historical preservation and historic architecture, said the current house has been known as the Dan Emmett Home for over 111 years, is listed on the National Register of Historic places and has become as much of a symbol of Mount Vernon as the courthouse or Public Square. She cited several pieces of information that led her to conclude that there is not enough evidence to rule out the possibility that Emmett resided in the home sometime in his youth.
Ramser, who read Brown’s letter, reiterated to council that according to the McClane manuscript, Emmett was not born in the current house. He also reiterated that the board did not feel it was appropriate to continue to perpetuate that myth.
In view of the belief held for 111 years that the current house is Emmett’s birthplace, Councilman Sam Barone questioned whether a picture or small model of the current house could be incorporated in a display once the replica house is completed. Ramser agreed that some sort of acknowledgement would diffuse confusion in light of the fact that Cat’s Meow replicas and other souvenirs depicting the house as Emmett’s birthplace are out in the community. He also said that a stone with a plaque denoting the property on the northeast corner of Mulberry Street and Ohio Avenue as Emmett’s birthplace could be removed and placed in or near the replica home.
Ramser said the society’s goal is to have the replica home completed by, the 200th anniversary of Emmett’s birth.