“Old Mountain Gentleman Spirit” of Cumberland Gap retires
Published 11:03 am Friday, April 21, 2023
BY JORDAN BROOKS
An historic landmark in Cumberland Gap has been retired.
The building that housed Cumberland Gap General Store, among many other businesses through the years, was demolished Monday, said its owner, Jon Ravnum. Ravnum, who moved to Cumberland Gap at the age of 29 in 1979, tells a story about the building’s colorful history with a host of different characters that have had a part in not only the history of the building at 503 Colwyn Ave., but also the history of Cumberland Gap.
Ravnum is unsure how old the original building is, but said an addition was added in 1946. One of the previous owners used the building as a novelty store called Daniel Boone’s Trading Post that operated alongside a car business.
Sam and Helen Bowman, some other previous owners, made an effort to restore old cars in the building.
In the 1970s, Clyde and Maureen Moore began buying property in the town, including the Old Mill, Angelo’s, the Cumberland Gap Motel, as well as what is now Whistle Stop Antiques and the old trading post.
What is now Whistle Stop Antiques and the warehouse where the Cumberland Gap Artists Co-op currently both stand came up for sale at the same time in the 1980s. Ravnum was an eager buyer.
“I bought the warehouse and (Angelo’s) in about ‘82, and then I bought the Antique Shop in ’83, and in ’92 I bought the lot beside our house (The trading post),” said Ravnum.
“We got married in ’92. And when I bought all of this stuff they all needed work, they needed new roofs, so I ended up putting in a lot of sweat equity.”
According to Ravnum, the old trading post generated revenue to fund renovations on his other properties.
“There wasn’t a huge traffic for customers, so we had to set our rent really low on them, and just try to get things done on them, and when things were on the short side, it seemed like the business always came up with a little extra,” said Ravnum. “So you can use this for what you want, but you’re going to have to use it for your buildings. So go eat a bigger peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but you have to go do roofing over here, do painting over here, do electric here, plumbing there, brickwork.
“Without the building, I wouldn’t have come to town. The Artist Co-op would have been torn down and Angelo’s roof was in unbelievably terrible condition.
“With this building helping, we were able to have a building to Whistle Stop so that Joe Wolfenburger and Tony Maxwell came to town, so the trading post helped Whistle Stop be there, and what did they do? They’ve added all their other businesses in town.”
Some of these businesses that have felt the influence of the trading post are Gap Creek Coffee House and Gurney’s. According to Ravnum, Papa Chum’s music started in the back of the Cumberland Gap Artist Co-Op, and now has moved out to their own place. Hillfolk, an up-and-coming herb business, takes the space behind the Artist Co-Op.
“When my friends say, ‘how do you describe the building?’ I say this is a tired, old mountain gentleman spirit that needs to rest”,” said Ravnum.
“We have spent, ever since ’79, on trying to preserve the town and make it so that these new people who are moving into town, have a reason to move into town.”