Walk Into Tennessee’s Past at Wynnewood
The stagecoach rumbled along the rough track, crossing Cherokee Indian territory on its way from Knoxville to Nashville. It pulled up outside an impressive two-story log structure perched on the wooded hillside, horses breathing hard, and the passengers alighted for their overnight stay at Castalian Springs. The year is 1832, and the inn and mineral springs resort is a popular stop for weary travelers who often return with their families to enjoy the health-giving sulphur spring waters.
Colonel Alfred Wynne and his wife Almira were gracious hosts, capitalizing on the strategic location of their 10-room inn on the main stagecoach line that followed Avery Trace, the primary overland route cut through the wilderness linking early settlements of pioneers across Tennessee.
Known today as Wynnewood, on Highway 25 in Castalian Springs, the 110ft log home built 180 years ago is Tennessee’s largest existing log structure. After suffering a devastating direct tornado hit in February, 2008, it finally reopened to the public on July 4, 2012.
Westward expansion led longhunter Isaac Bledsoe to discover an idyllic concentration of natural mineral springs and licks in 1772 while following buffalo trails.
The settlement of Bledsoe Station grew as a fortified refuge from Native American attacks for families trying to carve out a living in the new territories, but Bledsoe himself met an untimely death at 34 when killed in a raid. His property was acquired by General James Winchester, builder of Cragfont and founder of Memphis, and later inherited by Winchester’s daughter, Almira.
Wynnewood, as the mineral springs resort was later called, was originally built as a stagecoach inn set amongst a beautiful grove of trees and spectacular views. Limestone blocks for the foundation were quarried from a nearby hillside, and hardwood logs were cut from the property and hand hewn.
Colonel Wynne was not a good businessman, but excelled as a slave trader and breeder of thoroughbred horses. The family entertained constantly, and were personal friends with President Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Sam Houston. Visitors to Wynnewood even included John Hunt Morgan’s Raiders during the Civil War, and an incognito visit by infamous outlaw Jesse James. Along with many original furnishings throughout the house, the actual bed that James slept in will soon be on display.
The restoration of Wynnewood after the tornado has been extensive, with a number of positive improvements. The house now has a more historically accurate look, and the original family dining room is open to the public for the first time. Coming soon will be a visitor’s center and gift shop, and an archaeological display prepared by a group of research students from Middle Tennessee State University.
The historic home is open for tours Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is charged. Take a tour and imagine yourself back on a stagecoach arriving at the mineral springs resort!