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McMinn County mansion damaged by tornado, now in rebuilding mode

Van Dyke mansion nearly destroyed during Tornado

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is asking President Obama for help with disaster relief. The request includes counties in our viewing area affected by the tornadoes in November.

We revisit one of the hardest hit areas of McMinn County, where the storm that tore though Athens, almost wiped out an important piece of the county's history.

Damaged was one of the oldest homes in McMinn County. Fred Underdown with the county historical society says, it's been abandoned in its long life, it was the target of vandals.

"It was set on fire, that didn't get it," he says. "Time didn't get it, the Civil War didn't get it, but the tornado has really done a lot of damage to it,"

At one point, the old Prospect Hill Home was down for the count.

Lisa Long and her husband Jim have spent the last 7 years restoring this former mansion, built in 1833. But that morning a week and a half ago, a weather alert awoke them. "My husband said we need to go to the cellar of this house and we'd gotten into the hallway when the bedroom window imploded and the attic access panel was sucked up into the attic."

A loud bang on the roof.. that was the roof leaving. And then, it was over..

But is it really over? The Longs thought about bulldozing what's left, but the home's history spoke up loud and clear. "It's part of the reason we bought the house," Long says. "We didn't want to see that landmark lost.. that's what led us to it to begin with."

Long says, in the beginning they were shocked and heartbroken. The tears came later. "Everybody that's worked on this house has just been so proud to work on it.. they were our first phone calls," she says.

Now that the rebuilding process has begun anew, Underdown says, this home will be helped by the fact that the community wants to see this vital part of McMinn County history restored to its former glory. "I look forward to the day that the Longs do finish it," Underdown says. "Maybe they'll have a big ball over here and invite everybody to come over and waltz in the living room."

Long says, that rebuilding process is about 3 years away now, and the first priority is a new roof.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

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