Natural History Museum & Gray Fossil Site


Looking at the rolling hills of Northeast Tennessee today, it is hard to imagine that the area once was populated exotic animals such as rhinoceros, alligators and sabertoothed tigers. But when bones were discovered during the construction of a highway, it was soon found that Miocene Epoch animals populated the area in abundance. The 5-acre deposit of fossils is over 130 feet thick. It is the premier source of Miocene Epoch fossils on the east coast.

The East Tennessee State University Fossil Site Visitor Center was designed and constructed to exhibit the site’s unique fossil record. Other important functions include providing an educational facility for students, visitors, and the general public, and serving as a working research laboratory for the fossil deposit.

The first floor of the building is dedicated to exhibits and educational space. One exhibit hall features both permanent and temporary displays of the site’s excavations. A second exhibit hall is used for touring exhibitions and special museum functions. Meeting, class and media rooms provide space for the educational functions of the building.

The second floor is occupied by offices and research space. A bridge connects the second floor to the excavation site, which is located immediately behind the building.

The building structure utilizes a steel frame with brick and glass cladding allowing the soaring two-story entry. Several colors of brick are used for visual interest.

The H.S. Williams Company served as the general contractor for the project.

Gray, Tennessee
Museum and Research Facility
34,163 square feet

A Joint Venture of Bullock Smith Partners Knoxville, Tennessee and Vaughan and Melton, Inc. Greeneville, Tennessee

All photographs 2008 Denise Retallack