The origins of Manchester began with a small spring. In the early 1800s, people were looking for a place to become Coffee County’s center city. The original plan was Hillsboro, but the officials stumbled upon the Major Stone Fort Spring, according to Evans Baird. In 1836, James Irwin and Andrew Hines donated the land with the spring to the city and the rest is history.
The spring can still be found in Manchester.
Four years ago, spanning the greenway from Rotary Park to Fred Deadman Park was a path filled with overgrowth. If a walker looked close enough, they may have spotted a structure enclosed with concrete bricks through the foliage on the hill near the bridge crossing Duck River. Next to it was a small pool, filled with algae and litter.
“It was ugly and a mess,” said Baird, who sits on the Downtown Manchester Steering Committee.
After seeing a photo of what the spring and the structure on top of it originally looked like, he thought the spring should be saved and preserved as part of the town’s history. He recruited lifelong Manchester resident Greta Dajani to help.
“I do think there is something about history – If you don’t recognize the past, you can’t appreciate the future,” Dajani said.
Originally quoted to cost $25,000, the pair estimated they got it done with about $12,000-$14,000.
“A lot of these people did things at a much reduced rate,” Dajani explained.
They gathered donations and started with a small chunk of change from the Coffee County Central High School Classes of 1956 and 1957.
The city got on board and agreed to haul the rocks that would fill the spring’s drainage pool, Ernie Williams of Roger’s Group, donated the rocks, the Parks and Recreation Department wrote grant applications and cleared the overgrowth, Robert Wiser chiseled out the concrete blocks that closed the windows and doors and restored the structure and Nicholas Graham donated the turf for the hillside.
The hill was bulldozed and stripped, the sidewalk was redone, the drainage pool was filled and the water from the spring was rerouted directly into the river.
“Everyone that worked on the project put their heart in it some because they saw it as a worthwhile project,” Dajani said.
Once the restoration was complete, Baird wrote and commissioned a sign. It was placed in 2017. The sign does have a typo on it – it claims the city drew water from the spring for 100 years before Normandy Dam was operations. This is incorrect – Baird said Manchester drew water from it for 150 years.
He planned on holding a ribbon cutting at the spring to celebrate it being placed on the National Historic Registry, but the area was denied due to the cosmetic changes, such as the sidewalk. The ribbon cutting never occurred.
Overall, they are very pleased with the work.
“It gives added space that people sit and enjoy the park in,” Dajani said.
Baird added that the hillside, now that it is open and clear, is the best place to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from. His eyes are now on the rest of the hillside, where he hopes the overgrowth will be cleared so the view of the park is expanded.