The mansions of East Tennessee
East Tennessee more than holds its own when it comes to mansions. Middle Tennessee’s famous homes, like Belle Meade and Belmont, might hold more grandeur, but East Tennessee’s mansions offer colorful stories, from the spooky to the serene, of our past.
A mansion-hopping tour here uncovers the early history, dating to a time before this was a state and moves through the Civil War era, Victorian times and early 20th century wealth.
Carter Mansion in Elizabethton was built on lands bought from Cherokee Indians. Construction began in 1775, making it the oldest frame house in Tennessee. The mansion belonged to John Carter and his son, Landon. Like its counterpart, Blount Mansion in Knoxville, the two-story home would not be considered a mansion by normal standards. Both were built at a time when most people were grateful to have a snug one-room log cabin. Times they have a-changed!
Blount Mansion is considered the “Birthplace of Tennessee” because its owner, William Blount, was the territorial governor who worked to create statehood. Built in 1792, it featured glass brought from Virginia and lumber from North Carolina. Guests in the parlor were an interesting assortment: frontiersmen, Cherokees, future president Andrew Jackson and the future king of France, Louis Philippe.
Hostess Catharine Williams and her husband, Dr. Alexander Williams, entertained lavishly at the Dickson-Williams Mansion in Greeneville. Guests included three presidents from Tennessee, two senators, a governor, plus David Crockett and Marquis de Lafayette.
Her father, William Dickson, was Greeneville’s first postmaster. He was an Irish immigrant with money to spare, so he hired Irish artisans who, with the help of slaves, constructed a Federal-style mansion. Their labor took from 1815-1821, but it was built to last. The Civil War brought both Union and Confederate officers. A federal raid on the house in 1864 led to the capture and death of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan.
Crescent Bend, a mansion located on the Tennessee River in Knoxville, also was used by Union and Confederate armies. It dates to the early 1830s and is surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens.
The white columns, tall windows, and extended double galleries we associate with the antebellum era make the Butler Mansion a true architectural gem. The two-story brick house built in 1863 is the centerpiece of Hampton. Most recently it was a bed-and-breakfast inn, but now a “for sale” sign sits in the front garden.
Guests at Falcon Rest Mansion step into the Victorian era. This bed-and-breakfast inn features rooms filled with antiques, manicured flower gardens and a Victorian tea room. Weddings, history tours and special events take place throughout the year.
When Falcon Rest was built in the late 1890s, the house had all the modern conveniences of the day — electric lights and indoor plumbing. The original owner still hangs around, though he died in 1916. His footsteps are heard and the scent of his cigar lingers in the staircase. The mansion is located just outside of McMinnville.
In 1889 Chattanooga Mayor Edmond G. Watkins’ new home was the hub of social, business and political activity. The Victorian Romanesque home with 14 gables is now the luxurious Mayor’s Mansion Inn. Guests can take a short walk to reach an Edwardian-style mansion on the high bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River. This mansion was built in 1902 for businessman Ross Faxon and was later owned by Benjamin F. Thomas, one of the founders of the first Coca-Cola bottling company. The mansion evolved into the Hunter Museum of American Art.
Allandale Mansion in Kingsport is a venue for weddings and social events, thanks to the generosity of businessman Harvey Brooks who gave the mansion to the City of Kingsport for use by its citizens. The Georgian mansion holds fine furnishings imported from around the world.
Have you toured East Tennessee’s mansions? Which one is your favorite?