Sumner County’s First Courthouse Relives History
It’s been 224 years since one of Sumner County’s first courthouses last held session, but history will be remade on July 21, 2014 when the historic Douglass-Clark House will once again echo to the sound of the gavel.
The official dedication ceremony of one of the state’s oldest homes, circa 1783, will mark the completion of a $1 million total restoration of this historic landmark on Long Hollow Pike in Gallatin as a prelude to it opening as a Civil War Interpretive Center in early 2015. This links with the Tennessee Civil War Trail to smaller interpretive exhibits in five surrounding counties documenting the region’s Civil War transportation history.
Historic re-enactors will join Sumner County commissioners at the dedication ceremony 5:30-8 p.m. Monday, July 21 to re-enact former U.S. President and attorney Andrew Jackson presenting law papers to Revolutionary War general and magistrate Daniel Smith. Using the actual minutes from the 1700’s, the commission will then commence an 18th century court, which the public is invited to observe, followed by tours of the house, refreshments, and a militia demonstration with firing of a volley.
Built in 1783 on the banks of Station Camp Creek that now straddles the Gallatin-Hendersonville city lines, the original log dwelling was built as a fort to protect the early pioneers from Indian attacks. It became the home of Elmore Douglass, who first ran it as a tavern. In 1791, Louis-Phillipe, King of France, was amongst illustrious visitors who spent the night in the Douglass home.
During these early years in North Carolina territory, 10 years before Tennessee even became a state, the Sumner County Commission would travel to different homes to convene their meetings, and the Douglass-Clark House was used as a courthouse from 1786-1790.
The home saw many changes and additions over the years, but in 2007 the property was donated to Sumner County by local developer Centex Homes (now Pulte Group) to preserve this historic landmark. Grant money enabled restoration work to begin several years later, and many artifacts were discovered onsite, including a cannon ball, medicine bottles, marbles, broken china, wooden dowel pegs, and coins.
“We found the cannon ball in a closet under the stairway,” said Kim Ark, Sumner County Grants Administrator. “It could tell some stories!”
During restoration by the Grau General Contracting Company, the structure was stripped back to the lathe and plaster walls and original logs. The foundations were repaired with a new stone base, logs were rechinked, chimneys tuck pointed, stairways and limestone steps repaired or installed, windows, doors, copper gutters, siding, and new metal roof installed, all following historic guidelines to keep the house true to its period. The before and after pictures are impressive!
“Nothing is really level,” said Anthony Holt, Sumner County executive. “…But, this thing has lasted.” One of the surprise discoveries included messages etched into the wall by a visitor in the late 1890’s.
The Douglass-Clark House marks the trailhead for the Station Camp Greenway, a walking and bike trail that connects communities in Gallatin and Hendersonville. Long-range plans to extend the greenway will link it with scenic and historic points of interest in the district. If you’re looking for a new place to bring the family and do a little outdoor exploring, this is a great find!
The dedication, re-enactment and historic convening of the first Sumner County Commission meeting at the Douglass-Clark House in 224 years, is open to the public. The house is located at 2115 Long Hollow Pike, Gallatin. Bring along a blanket or lawn chair and your camera to witness this historic event.