History lives on as “See Rock City” barns get new paint

A historic roadside icon, the barns urging travelers to “See Rock City” dot the landscape around the country.

With the advent of interstates, many of the barns have been passed by and are off the well-traveled roads, but they have become favorites among those who chose to drive the backroads.

Recently, one of the SRC barns was given a fresh coat of paint by by See Rock City, Inc. on Highway 68 near Crossville.

The group's plan is to repaint several barns each year.

Only 79 SRC barns are still maintained from the original 900.

The newly-repainted barn on Highway 68 has a fresh coat of paint for travelers to enjoy. 

The barn's owner, Elsie Buhaly, contacted Rock City about the paint fading and said many tourists still stopped to photograph it. She and her husband chose to buy the property in 1979 mostly because of the barn with the ‘See Rock City' message on the roof.

According to Rocky City, the barn had originally been painted in 1959, when Clark Byers was still the official sign painter for SRC. Byers began his 35-year career in 1935 after the instruction of Garnet Carter, Rock City's founder.

“This particular barn is considered a landmark barn, featured in media like Southern Living Magazine and many other publications,” said Roy Davis, manager of SRC's R&R Hospitality. “Years from now we want grandkids pointing to See Rock City barns and getting their grandparents to tell them stories of when they saw these barns. This painting is another step in keeping the memories alive.”

“Unfortunately, we can only maintain the paint on the barn and not the structure itself. If the barn becomes in total disarray or is taken out by a storm, then we lose it and cannot replace it due to highway laws.”

The  Highway Beautification Act of 1965, championed by First Lady Ladybird Johnson, meant that many of Rock City's rooftop messages had to be removed beginning in the 1960's.