DRESDEN (January 14) – Since 1883, The Enterprise newspaper has been a part of the Dresden business community, providing countywide news coverage, and even offering some headlines from throughout the state and nation. On January 14, the office building on South Wilson Street in Dresden and home of The Enterprise since the late 70s was officially demolished, with plans under way for rebuilding on that same strip of property.
After a tornado made its way along Highway 89 between Sharon and Dresden before hitting Pikeview Street and streets in downtown Dresden December 10, 2021, the home office the Dresden Enterprise was severely damaged; the roof collapsing into the building crushing walls, desks and office equipment. The only option remaining for the office was to demolish the structure. Since then, staff members have worked remotely, putting together pages of the newspaper digitally each week to ensure the paper is printed and delivered to the community every Wednesday.
A couple of computers and in the newspaper server were salvaged from the wreckage. The first weekend after the tornado, friends of the staff members were able to pull a little more 20 bound archives of The Enterprise through a hole in the front of the building. The rest of the newspaper archives, dating back to 1937, were buried under cinder blocks and the roof. More than 60 books, filled with Weakley County history, were compromised, and it was unknown what type of damage they had sustained. Archives prior to that year were lost in a fire at a former location of the Dresden Enterprise.
The morning of January 14 was a bittersweet day as team members arrived at the location to witness Trent Britt and associate Ryan Knight of Quality Contractor Services demolish what remained of the newspaper office. First on the scene was Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn, whose family has a long-time history with The Enterprise, serving as editors and later owners of the local business. Washburn heaved archive books out of the wreckage after Britt graciously peeled back parts of the roof and shifted debris to allow the team to recover the bound books.
The contractor went a bit further, pushing back more debris, allowing the team to recover more items of historic interest that was known to be in the building. Recovered were photos of the original owners of the newspaper, Merchant Marine Carmon Pritchett in uniform, and books relating to Weakley County history.
A quick call to Mike Rea of the Weakley County Historical and Genealogical Society and the archives were loaded into Knight’s truck and headed to a temperature-controlled room with dehumidifiers in the building housing the Weakley County Head Start. Since then, WCHGS members Rea, Greg Roach and Denise Boane have spent their time working to clean up the historical books. The process will take some time, but Rea is more than hopeful the archives can be salvaged and once again, serve as historical markers for the community. The WCHGS members are volunteering their time to rehabilitate the newspaper’s archive collection.
Plans are now under way to rebuild the newspaper office, on the same plot of ground at 113 S. Wilson St.
Until then, team members are looking for a temporary office space to serve newspaper customers.
“Ideally, we want to locate our temporary office in Dresden, as that is our home. Property was limited before the tornado, but with much of downtown Dresden destroyed by the tornado, we will consider locating in neighboring cities to be able to help our customers efficiently. If there is anyone with potential space available while we rebuild our office, please let us know. This has been a painful and emotional experience, not just for our team, but for the entire community and we have relied heavily on the kindness of our neighbors,” Enterprise Managing Editor Sabrina Bates said.
“This situation has brought to light some of the needs for people living and doing business in Dresden and I am hopeful that out of all of this tragedy, Dresden will see a different type of growth. I’ve heard talk of community centers, green spaces with courtyards and a municipal complex. I am excited, personally and professionally, to see what the future holds for our newspaper office and the City of Dresden,” Bates added.
Until the new office space in is in place, team members are still available to handle requests and put together a newspaper each week. For editorial concerns, subscription questions and general information, contact Bates at 731-332-0710. Those with advertising needs may reach out to Marketing Director Laura Bates at 731-332-0819. Graphic Designer Jasmine Williams will take care of ad design and classifieds. Contact her at email@example.com. Those with feature ideas can reach out to 30-year staff writer David Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“While January 14 was a bittersweet day, I was blown away by the help we received, from the contractor who was patient with us as we tried to salvage items from what was left of the building, to Jeff Washburn, who helped pull archives out of the rubble, to Mike Rea, Don Cleek and Tommy Wilson, who helped unload our archives at the head start building. Their kindness helped ease the pain of the day,” Bates added.