Hundreds of volunteers help rehab historic Knoxville cemetery

Hundreds of volunteers help rehab historic East Knoxville cemetery

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The Odd Fellows Cemetery has been a part of East Knoxville since 1880. The Odd Fellows Cemetery has been a part of East Knoxville since 1880.
The UT School of Architecture and a group of freshmen volunteers are now helping bring that vision to life. The UT School of Architecture and a group of freshmen volunteers are now helping bring that vision to life.
"I never dreamed it would come this far," said Stephen Scruggs. "I never dreamed it would come this far," said Stephen Scruggs.
Volunteers will be laying temporary paths with the hopes of bringing the community back into the cemetery. Volunteers will be laying temporary paths with the hopes of bringing the community back into the cemetery.

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A historic Knoxville cemetery was given some much needed TLC Wednesday by members of several community organizations.

The Odd Fellows Cemetery at South Kyle Street and Kenner Avenue has been a part of East Knoxville since 1880, but for several decades it has become overgrown and rundown. Now it's breathing in new life.

Stephen Scruggs is president of the Knoxville Reanimation Coalition, the driving force behind the rehabilitation.

"I never dreamed it would come this far," said Scruggs. "It started as an educational program for five students up at Beck Center."

Scruggs says that first educational program focused on the history of the cemetery. Eventually they turned their attention to the future.

The UT School of Architecture and a group of freshmen volunteers are now helping bring that vision to life.

"One thing we like to teach them is about being an active citizen of the community, and so it's not just being a member, it's not just being someone who is aware of this stuff, but it's actually someone who is giving back," said UT Volunteer Coordinator Diane Ruff.

Volunteers will be laying temporary paths with the hopes of bringing the community back into the cemetery.    

"It's going to making pathways that are already existing in the cemetery more convenient and easier and safer to walk through the cemetery," said Scruggs.

While the paths will make the cemetery more functional, the volunteers hope their work will invite more people to also research its past.

"We're also trying to educate the community on the rich history of the cemetery and the great African Americans that are buried here," said Scruggs.

They hope to eventually build monuments and memorials throughout the cemetery to help continue to spread that history.

The cemetery contains about 6,000 graves.

Neighboring Potters Field was founded in 1850 and was once designated for the city's poor. It is thought to contain 18,000 graves.

If you would like more information about how you can donate or help volunteer in the clean-up visit knoxvillereanimationcoalition.org.

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