The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee — best known for its work to preserve open space, working farms and riverbanks — stepped in to save the old general store from an uncertain future by purchasing the building in August.
“Our mission does include heritage,” said Sharon Taylor, land protection coordinator for LTLT. And heritage doesn’t get much better than saving the iconic general store.
The old general store not only provided rural residents with the necessities of life, from nails to sugar, but was a social gathering spot. The hope is that the old store will be more than a symbol of cultural heritage from days gone by, and will continue to serve as a community anchor.
“It was a center of the community for so many years, and we are hoping it will again become a center of the community,” Taylor said. “Building community is part of our goal in preserving the rural character of Cowee Valley.”
A group called Friends of Rickman store is working to chart a course for the old store’s role in the community.
The general store was built in 1895 and was operated as such for a century. For most of its history — about 70 years — it was operated by one man, Tom Rickman. The store was sold out of the family following Rickman’s death in the mid-1990s. The new buyer operated it as a craft and antique store, but resold it after a couple of years.
The latest buyer had plans for the building, but they never came to fruition, so it was put up for sale again. That’s when the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee decided to step in.
The Land Trust paid $255,000 for the old store. Macon Bank provided a loan with favorable terms, buying the land trust time to raise the money. Some upcoming fundraisers include:
• Christmas greenery sale and wreath-making classes on Nov. 24 and 25, Dec. 1 and 2.
• Christmas tree sales — The Land Trust is taking orders for locally grown Christmas trees, which can be picked up at the Rickman store. Trees are $50. Call 828.524.2711.
Cowee-West’s Mill Historic District
The old general store falls within a 370-acre rural district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee led efforts in the 1990s to get National Register status for the historic district, called the Cowee-West’s Mill Historic District. The historic district is home to 21 historic structures — old barns, homes and churches. The old Rickman store is one of the more unique historic structures.
“We felt like the Rickman store was an anchoring point for the historic district,” Taylor said.
In addition to the classic Appalachian farm history, the historic district is home to Cowee Mound, the site of a large Cherokee town. It also is home to a century-old African-American church and Revolutionary War history.
LTLT fall celebration
The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee will hold its annual fall celebration at the old Rickman general store in the Cowee community of Macon County on Saturday, Nov. 3.
The celebration begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. The day includes music by the Frog Town 5, kids’ games, and food by Big Mountain BB-Q.
There will also be tours of the Cowee-West Mills Historic District, a 370-acre rural district on the National Register of Historic Places. LTLT will also present its annual conservation awards.