Participation Type

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

Building on a Legacy: Evolution from Mission School in the 1920s to Environmental and Cultural Center in the 2020s

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

This presentation traces the history of a 1920s mission school for girls in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia to its present incarnation as a nature/cultural center for everybody in the 21st century. Sponsored by Lutherans desiring to provide educational opportunities for girls in a remote area of Smyth County, Virginia, Konnarock Training School opened in 1924. Located at the foot of Whitetop Mountain, KTS drew boarding students from the immediate area and as far away as Boone, North Carolina. The girls ranged in age from five to eighteen. They were housed and schooled in a spacious three-story structure clad in chestnut bark siding. The Lutherans and local residents built a cottage on the grounds that served as a medical facility for the students as well as the whole community.

With greater accessibility to public schools, KTS closed its doors in 1959, but the structure served several other functions over the years. In 2007 a group organized as the Konnarock Retreat House set out to preserve the building and to repurpose it as a cultural and community center. In 2017 the KRH Board gifted the buildings and five acres of mountain land to Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an educational environmental group in its 10th year of service to mountain communities and beyond. To date, BRDC has raised 1.8 million dollars to renovate and rejuvenate a legacy institution whose current and future plans promise rich benefits for our Appalachian Mountains.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Dr. Grace Toney Edwards is Professor Emerita of Appalachian Studies and English at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. She served as Chair of the Appalachian Studies Program and Director of the Appalachian Regional Studies Center. She is co-editor of A Handbook to Appalachia and editor of The Common Lot and Other Stories: The Published Short Fiction of Emma Bell Miles.

Co-Presenter's Bio: Dr. John Charles Nemeth is President of Education and Research Consulting, Christiansburg, Virginia. He served as CEO and Executive Director of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, from 2015 to 2017. In earlier positions, he was Vice President of Oak Ridge Associated Universities and Professor and Research Laboratory Director at Georgia Tech.

Presentation #2 Title

Same as above (one paper - two presenters)

Presentation #2 Abstract or Summary

Same as above (one paper - two presenters)

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Co-Presenter's Bio: Dr. John Charles Nemeth is President of Education and Research Consulting, Christiansburg, Virginia. He served as CEO and Executive Director of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, from 2015 to 2017. In earlier positions, he was Vice President of Oak Ridge Associated Universities and Professor and Research Laboratory Director at Georgia Tech.

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Building on a Legacy: Evolution from Mission School in the 1920s to Environmental and Cultural Center in the 2020s

This presentation traces the history of a 1920s mission school for girls in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia to its present incarnation as a nature/cultural center for everybody in the 21st century. Sponsored by Lutherans desiring to provide educational opportunities for girls in a remote area of Smyth County, Virginia, Konnarock Training School opened in 1924. Located at the foot of Whitetop Mountain, KTS drew boarding students from the immediate area and as far away as Boone, North Carolina. The girls ranged in age from five to eighteen. They were housed and schooled in a spacious three-story structure clad in chestnut bark siding. The Lutherans and local residents built a cottage on the grounds that served as a medical facility for the students as well as the whole community.

With greater accessibility to public schools, KTS closed its doors in 1959, but the structure served several other functions over the years. In 2007 a group organized as the Konnarock Retreat House set out to preserve the building and to repurpose it as a cultural and community center. In 2017 the KRH Board gifted the buildings and five acres of mountain land to Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an educational environmental group in its 10th year of service to mountain communities and beyond. To date, BRDC has raised 1.8 million dollars to renovate and rejuvenate a legacy institution whose current and future plans promise rich benefits for our Appalachian Mountains.