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MTSU students help rebuild tornado-devastated historic home

While many people prepared to give Valentine’s Day cards to their better halves, members of the MT Anthropology Society gathered on a muddy campus to help raise money for the tornado-devastated Wynnewood State Historic Area.

For nearly 20 years, Wynnewood has been the base of operations for MTSU’s archaeology field school, which is under the direction of Dr. Kevin Smith, professor and director of anthropology at MTSU.

On Feb. 14, Dr. Tanya Peres, MTAS faculty adviser, and a group of students stood in the chilly weather on the KUC Knoll, where the benefit yard sale took place. The sale served as a way to help the Castalian Springs community, where Wynnewood is located.

“This is a way we can give back to them now,” Peres explained.

All of the items at the yard sale were donated just a few days before the sale. A Casio keyboard, a large Transformer action figure, a pair of swim shoes, a DVD player and many other items lined up beside each other on foldout tables. After the yard sale and other financial donations, MTAS had helped raise more than $1,300, said Smith, who’s spent around a year and a half of his life either living or working around Wynnewood, with nearly 250 students and more than 400 community volunteers.

“I don’t know that words can really capture my feelings when I saw Wynnewood the morning after the (Feb. 5) tornado,” Smith said.

After arriving that morning, Smith spent much of his day with others helping to recover the furnishing that remained at Wynnewood. Around $10,000 worth of MTSU field equipment stored there was found safe and later secured, he said.

“A lot of the furniture and furnishings on the second floor were torn from the building by the tornado and broken and scattered over many acres,” observed Smith, who added that “pieces and parts were gathered up acres and acres to the north of the building, placed in semi-trailers, and transported to warehouses to protect them until they can be inventoried, evaluated and some of them put back together.”

The damage to Wynnewood is not just a loss to the MT Archaeology Program and the Castalian Springs community, but to “all of the nation’s citizens.”

Wynnewood is one of only 27 National Historic Landmarks in Tennessee, along with places such as the Ryman Auditorium and the Hermitage.

“For the faculty and students who have worked in and around Wynnewood over the past 15 years, Wynnewood is even more special, because we have spent so many weeks and months enjoying the stately building,” Smith explained. “To see it broken and scattered was really seeing the heart of the community torn from its foundations and scattered across the landscape.”

Seeing “before” and “after” pictures of Wynnewood provides a grim look at the destruction the tornado left behind that February night. But, Smith explained, the pictures don’t show the complete devastation, because they “don’t capture what it was like to actually be there, to see and feel the disaster around you.”

To donate or for more information, call Smith or Peres at (615) 898-2508.

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