A Lenoir City building that for more than a half-century stood as a monument to the military service of local veterans is finally receiving its own honored status.
On Dec. 29, the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior placed the Lenoir City War Memorial Building on the National Register of Historic Places.
"This is something I've been working on since I took office," said Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens.
Built in 1951, the building honors Loudon County soldiers from World War II. The structure deserves to be preserved in the memory of the veterans for whom it was first dedicated, Aikens said.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank our many veterans, for whom this structure is named, for their unselfish service to our community and a great nation," he said.
Aikens also thanked the City Council, city staff and others who worked on the project. Almost everyone in the city has a personal connection to the War Memorial Building, Aikens said.
According to retired Lenoir City history teacher Joe Spence, the structure, in addition to being headquarters of the American Legion, functioned like a community center during the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
"The city library was in one room there. They had a lot of dances, including teen dances and square dances," he said.
Many Lenoir City High School functions, including graduations, were held at the building.
The high school basketball team, including the 1958 state championship team, played in the memorial hall, Spence said.
The aging brick building remains an integral part of the community, Spence said.
The building is still used as election headquarters and as a forum for political debates. It is also used for special events including reunions and wedding receptions.
The city plans to seek funding to restore the building, which Aikens said is in great need of repair. State and federal grants are possible funding sources, he said.
"We will be focusing on available grants, monies that will enable the city to bring new life to this downtown landmark," Aikens said.