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Ft. O's last guard shack

In its heyday, the fort that was Fort Oglethorpe boasted 1,600 buildings. Except for the barracks on Barnhardt Circle and a handful of buildings on Lafayette Road, most of the structures were torn down and their materials auctioned off when the fort was decommissioned for the last time in the late 1940s.

Among the structures that once dotted the military training grounds were small wood guard shacks. Just one of them remains. It now lives at The History Company on Lafayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe.

The History Company owner, Louis Varnell, tells the story of how he came to own Fort Oglethorpe's last guard shack:

"This particular shack was at the gate to the POW compound. When the post closed after the war, the civilian employees were told if they wanted anything to take it. Well, one of them wanted the guard shack. He cut it in two, moved it across what is modern Battlefield Parkway and placed it behind his house as a shed. There it remained until a few years back when an insurance company said they wanted it torn down. Luckily, the family knew they had a unique piece of local history. We were able to get it moved, thanks to a contractor who

donated his time and equipment."

Varnell bought the old McDonald's building on Lafayette Road in 2012 and has remodeled and expanded it, closing in the former playground and giving the entire building an Old West look. The back part of the building houses the Southeast Veterans Museum that, says Varnell, "allows us to tell the story of America's military. Uniforms, helmets, vehicles, etc., are all part of what we use for interpretive programming in the museum."

Varnell's Southeast Veterans Museum predates his business as a supplier of reenacting supplies and military memorabilia and equipment by five years. "The museum was originally located downtown at Chattanooga Ducks." When Varnell opened The History Company in 2010 just south of Chickamauga Battlefield, he moved his museum to the new location. He moved it again, when he relocated to the north side of the Battlefield, where he is now.

The museum contains a number of items from Fort Oglethorpe's days as a fort, including some bars from the fort's jail that will soon be on display.

The old guard shack will become a part of the growing museum.

"We've started the restoration on it," says Varnell. "Step one will be stripping and repainting the outside. Eventually, we'll move it nearer the front door and plans are to restore the inside with an exhibit so people can see what it might have looked like back in the day. There's a lot of work ahead, but the plan is for this old soldier to guard The History Company and help tell the story of our local installation back when Fort O was Fort Oglethorpe."

The Southeast Veterans Museum is supported by sales from Varnell's store and by donations. Admission is free.

The History Company and Southeast Veterans Museum

2949 Lafayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5:30 p.m. On Facebook: Phone: 423-290-6639

Ringgold council approves metal siding for Farm to Fork restaurant

Chad Young

Larry Black

A little more than three months after denying a variance request for a local restaurant, the Ringgold City Council voted Monday night, July 10, to reconsider and approve the request with stipulations.

In a March 27 public hearing, local businessman Emerson Russell requested two variances from the council: the first to allow for metal siding on the building of a new restaurant he's having built, and the second asking for permission to erect a sign larger than what the city ordinance allows.

Following a long back-and-forth with the mayor and council, Russell wound up one for two in his requests.

The requests were related to a new Farm to Fork restaurant planned next to the Hampton Inn hotel off Battlefield Parkway, which was also a Emerson Properties project.

The existing Farm to Fork at 118 Remco Shops Lane is one of the city's most popular eateries, and Russell stated he's been working with the owners of the restaurant to build a newer version right off the 350 exit.

After approving the sign variance request, the council denied allowing Russell and the restaurant to leave portions of the building as metal without some sort of siding present, which would have violated the city's building ordinance. Russell threatened to de-annex his properties but never pursued that options.

On Monday night attorney Chad Young addressed the council representing Russell, and presented an alternative plan that includes specific landscaping to cover up the back of the building visible from Battlefield Parkway.

"The proposal now for the facade is to plant approximately 25 Leyland cypress trees in the location as shown on the attached drawing," Young said. "It'll help soften the appearance of the metal facade of that building. Those will be planted and in place before the owner would be eligible for his certificate of occupancy. There's also a binding commitment that should any of those trees die or be damaged, they would be timely replaced with a new tree of similar quality."

This time around, the council unanimously approved the variance request.

Councilman Larry Black says the council members voted differently this time because they were offered more

information about the restaurant's plan.

"We did hear this on March 27, and we were presented with what we felt like was limited information and felt like we needed more information to make a good decision and move forward, so we appreciate what you've brought."

Black added that the initial denial had nothing to do with the restaurant itself, but rather pertained to the visibility residents and visitors have of the establishment from one of the town's busiest roadways.

"We just needed more information about what's going to be done to cover that to make it look more professional for the people that are coming into Ringgold," Black said. "It's not a situation where we're against the growth. My concern was just on that south elevation and how we were going to cover what looks like just a cheap metal building on that back side when you're coming down Battlefield Parkway. The last thing we would want to do is have a situation where we open up a lot of substandardtype construction where people think, 'hey, the city will let this go'."

A firm open date for the restaurant has not been announced, but it is expected to be completed sometime this Fall.

"At the end of the day, our goal is to attract patrons to eat at the restaurant and stay at the hotel, so we want it to look as nice as it can," Young said.

Fort Oglethorpe says goodbye to local historian, introduces new building inspector

The city of Fort Oglethorpe said goodbye to long-time friend and local historian Gerry Depken Monday night, July 10, while also welcoming Rick Quarles as its new building and planning-zoning director.

During the City Council meeting, Mayor Earl Gray read a proclamation for historian Gerry Depken, who is moving out of state.

"Depken has served our community as a historian, dedicated volunteer, and friend of the local government, and has been a vital part of preserving our rich history for present and future generations," Gray said. "I, Earl Gray, do hereby proclaim Monday, July 10, 2017, as Gerry Depken Day and express the appreciation of myself and the citizens of our fine city to Gerry for her winning contributions."

During her time in Fort Oglethorpe, Depken co-authored a book about the city's historic military post and dedicated a lot of her time to city in a volunteer effort.

"She's going to be missed," Gray said.

While city officials are sad to see Depken go, there was also excitement regarding the hiring of Rick Quarles as the new building and planning-zoning director.

"We are very excited to welcome Rick Quarles to our team," said City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins. "He has extensive certifications and over 13 years experience as a building inspector in Catoosa County. In addition to being in charge of building inspection, Rick will also oversee our storm-water management program, GIS businesses licensing, solid waste contract internal building maintenance."

I appreciate the opportunity," Quarles said. "Thank you all."