Linden Revitalized With Community Art, Hotel Restoration

February 10, 2012

By Barbara Biehler

Faced with a dismal 27 percent unemployment rate in January 2009, the small Tennessee town of Linden desperately needed to find a way to revive the local economy, bring about positive economic changes and restore community pride. Local leaders working on the problem decided to take a novel approach in attempt to resolve its economic woes. Their solution: cover the town in vibrant artwork.

Reviving Linden With Art
Art became an integral part of the revitalization of Linden. Today, it’s virtually everywhere you look. Bright, colorful murals replace faded facades on buildings, and lively images cover trash cans along streets throughout the town. Perry County residents hope the establishment of this new, thriving arts district will attract tourists, spur economic development and reinvigorate their community. [Read more: Blooming Arts Festival in Linden, Tennessee]

A mural titled The Forest That Feeds Us by Sonny Davis, Linden, TN

VisionPerry, a summer youth art program, engaged local young people to create these vivid works of art. Working with 11 professional artists over the course of eight weeks in 2009, 20 program participants created a diverse mixture of public art including paintings, pottery, glass mosaics, assemblage and environmental sculptures. All this hard work resulted in the new Linden Arts & Historic District, a magnet for visitors and residents alike.

Restoring a Piece of History
However, Linden’s attractions go beyond artwork. With the support of Mayor Jim Azbill, VisionPerry Director Michael Dumont and his wife, Kathy, decided to purchase the dilapidated Staley Hotel in 2007. Their mission: to restore the old downtown building to its former glory.

“Even though the Staley had not been operated in 20 years, I fell in love with the architecture of the hotel,” says Dumont, a former real estate developer. “We knew it could be a signature building in the area and an asset to the community.

The refurbished Commodore Hotel in Linden was built in 1939

Renamed in honor of the county’s namesake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the beautifully restored Commodore Hotel Linden is now a historic downtown centerpiece. A grand fireplace, high ceilings and crown moldings opulently adorn the hotel lobby, while large windows and exposed brick walls elegantly decorate the guest rooms.

“Preserving a piece of Americana built during simpler times was a real goal,” Dumont says. “During restoration, we attempted to retain the original character of the building while adding 21st-century amenities.”

One such amenity, the hotel restaurant, the Dumonts transformed into a casual, artsy eatery offering a selection of hand-cut meats, fresh baked breads, desserts and local produce.

Handcrafted Gifts
No visit to Linden would be complete without a stop at the Buffalo River Artisans Co-Operative (BRAC) gallery. A venue for local artists and craftspeople to display their wares, the BRAC gallery carries many unique items such as hand-woven rugs, pottery, paintings and much more.

“Our customers can feel confident when they make a purchase here,” says BRAC member Teresa Yoder. “They know who made their item and have a chance to speak to the artist, in most cases. Your special gift or personal item can be even more unique when you, the customer, are involved from the beginning to the end of the process.”

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  1. hugh waddell says:

    How odd, that the art of great music wasn’t touched on… The Perry County towns of Linden and Lobelville have embarked on a unique joint venture bringing concerts to the county every Saturday night, all Summer long. The free outdoor shows alternate from Linden to Lobelville week-to-week.

    Perry County’s ambitious Music on Main Street, is back this year in 2012, kicking off in Linden on the Perry County Courthouse Square, Saturday night, May 26, with a special Memorial Day weekend concert and then, every Saturday night this summer, each weekend in either Linden or Lobelville at 7:30 PM. The music will continue, featuring a vast array of musical styles including blues, jazz, country, ’50′s pop and bluegrass.

    Some of the 2012 scheduled acts for Music on Main Street include Gary Talley, former member of the Box Tops (who had the mega hit “The Letter”), country mega-hit songwriter Wood Newton, Walter “Magnet & Steel” Eagan, 9-piece 1980′s showband the Skyliters, Sedina Reed (talented daughter of the late superstar Jerry Reed), and many many more!

    The line-up in the previous two years of Perry County’s Music on Main Street has included local bluegrass-roots artist Mike Webb, 1980’s country soul hit-maker Razzy Bailey, legendary music family member Stella Parton, harpist/songwriter Deanna Loveland, harmonica greats Roguie Ray and Jelly Roll Johnson, Grammy-nominated Terri (“Somebody’s Knockin”) Gibbs, award-winning and critically-acclaimed group Blue Mother Tupelo, guitar wiz John Richards, Beach Music Hall-of-Fame member Clifford Curry, “Nashville’s Queen of the Blues” Marion James, country blues crooner T. Graham Brown, folk singer Little Johnny Kantreed, Louisiana Cajun man Les Kerr, Alabama country-rocker Johnny Collier, bluesman/guitarist Clyde “Memphis Blue” Dotson and hit country songwriter Jimbo Sales.

    For more information, contact the Perry County Chamber of Commerce at: (931) 589-2453 or by e-mail at info@perrycountytn.org .

    • Jessy Yancey says:

      Thanks for sharing! We’re happy to include some of your feedback in the upcoming summer issue of Tennessee Home & Farm.

      Jessy Yancey
      editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

  2. Brandi Raymer says:

    I was born and raised in the beautiful town and I’m about 100% positive it’s a “small middle tn town”. It’s not considered west until you cross the tn river. Not being picky, just being accurate. :) I love this article by the way! I moved out of Perry County about 6yrs ago, but I still go back very often to visit family. And I have loved watching the transformation of Linden & Lobelville over the past 6 years. It’s absolutely stunning now!