Updated: Jan 5
Walk with us through an interview with Kirk Johnson, one of the founders of Southern States Construction as he talks about the reclaiming of 27 North Main Street in Springfield, TN:
This is the first restoration project by Southern States Construction. How and why did the company decide to take on a project of this size and magnitude?
The easiest way to answer the why is that we were simply looking for our next project. We were finishing up a few houses and were ready to take on something new.
For whatever reason, I kept driving past the 27 North Main Street building. I had no idea what it was, the story behind it, or the history. I just knew it was a cool old building that had great bones. It could only have been the Lord that prompted me to continue to drive past, and before long, I just knew that this was the next project.
I then started to walk through the place. I was trespassing. It was a bit spooky. There were tons of evidence that many transient people had made this place their illegal home. There was no electricity of course, very few windows, and I really didn’t know how sturdy the floor was that I was walking on. On one visit, I observed termites pouring out of a doorway. One building had already collapsed.
At the time, I had no idea it was even for sale. After a few walk-through site trips, I called the City of Springfield to ask questions. They were very enthusiastic about the inquiry because it had been sitting empty and rotting for so long. I learned that the building had been condemned, and the building was due to be torn down in the following month unless something was to be done.
At this point, it just seemed like it was meant to be. I talked it over with my business partner John Spahr, and our Chief Operating Officer Micah Buck, and we were all in agreement that this was our next project.
After securing bank funding, we started immediate clean up. We had the debris in and outside of the building cleaned up within 30 days. This included 150 dumpster loads of materials – which equaled 6 million pounds of debris - made up of collapsed buildings and trash from transient living.
I still didn’t know the full history of the building, not living here my entire life. The stories came tumbling out – not only about the Springfield Woolen Mills, but also NASCO. I enjoyed hearing subcontractors talk about his dad’s office being located here, or another story of how one’s parents met working here, etc.
It wasn’t until a social media post went out on Experience Springfield and received 64,000 views that I knew we were on very special grounds.
Of all the potential with the Springfield Woolen Mills project, what are you most excited about?
The more I learn about the history and hear the Woolen Mills stories and the NASCO stories, it’s evident what this place meant to so many people. I’m excited about taking everything that was special in the past and bringing it to the present – a place where the community can come share a good meal, experience some great entertainment, share a special occasion – such as a wedding, anniversary, or corporate milestone – bring their families for fun, shopping and more.
What has been the largest frustration so far with the renovation process?
Time. The time that is taking to see it come to fruition. It’s like a kid waiting for Christmas. The time that it takes to complete a project of this size, with all the pieces of the puzzle falling in place just doesn’t move as quickly as a new home build. I’m not trying to be negative, it’s just a different type of project that we are used to doing.
What has been the best thing about the renovation process?
Seeing a plan come together and seeing it become a reality. And seeing all the enthusiasm of the community. The stories being generated are uplifting and positive!
It’s been clear how important it is to attempt to repurpose every material possible. What are the plans for the salvaged brick, wood, and other materials?
All brick used thus far in the renovation are reclaimed brick from the collapsed building. We hired local high school summer labor to clean and stack all of it. It’s neat thinking that these kids could be 7th generation descendants of those that originally worked here! All of the wood – which is Douglas Fir shipped by rail from Idaho in 1903 - is being repurposed with accent walls, furniture, and conference tables. All concrete was even busted apart to use for back fill for a new future parking lot.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are not only putting our love, sweat, and tears into this project for our community, but for those that live outside our county lines. We want to share the Springfield Woolen Mills with the rest of the country and make it a destination place. Robertson County and Springfield have so much to offer. It’s hard to see it when you live here, but we’re special. We have a wonderful square with a historic courthouse. We have festivals, great places to eat, and lots of history to share. A destination venue with a potential boutique hotel will just add to the landscape that’s already here. We hope you’ll visit our website and follow our progress on social media by searching Springfield Woolen Mills. And when we open our doors, we hope you’ll come to see us!