Historic Places Tour celebrates Cumberland

Colleen Creamer • Updated Dec 6, 2016 at 12:00 PM

In keeping with the nonprofit’s mission to advocate for significant local structures, Historic Lebanon squired citizens from Middle Tennessee through its ninth annual Historic Places Tour on Saturday. 

The theme this year celebrated Cumberland University and its importance to Lebanon, as well as the development of its neighborhoods. 


The ninth annual Historic Places tour sites included Cumberland University’s Memorial Hall, the Mitchell House, the McDearman Home, the Potter Home; the Patterson House; the Caldwell Home; the Ritchie Home and the Catron Alumni House.

“It’s particularly important as we celebrate our 175th year,” said Cumberland University president Paul Stumb. “We are such an important part of the history of this town. We are just thrilled to be a part of this event tonight.” 

Stumb was taking in the display at Memorial Hall where hundreds of artifacts, photographs and other memorabilia documented Cumberland University in the duration of it serving as the only four-year institution in Wilson County.

Memorial Hall

The plan for Memorial Hall was the product of chemistry professor John Iredell Dillard Hinds (1847-1921), along with Nashville architect W.C. Smith. It included a chapel, which projected from the west elevation. When finished, the space boasted an elegant painted art nouveau ceiling, but poor acoustics led to its conversation to a gymnasium space. In 1939, it was restored to its original purpose with funds donated by Walter Jackson Baird in memory of his wife, Ethel Bouton Baird. A cornerstone for Memorial Hall was laid in 1892. Construction continued until September 1896 when classes were first held in the new structure. Memorial Hall and Baird Chapel are centerpieces of Cumberland’s campus and were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. 

The Potter Home

As a Cumberland University alumnus, Bill Potter wanted to live near the university and its neighborhoods. He bought the Tudor revival-style house in July 2015. The property was sold as a “lot” in June 1936 for $725. A house was built and sold in January 1937.  This entire section of Pennsylvania Avenue was part of a large-scale subdivision plan in 1907. Titled “the West Main addition” the plan included 113 lots with service alleys and three new streets running between South Tarver Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, paralleling West Main Street.

The McDearman Home

Linda McDearman bought Colonial revival-style home after having grown up in the house next door. Built in 1936 by Comer A. Donnell and his wife, Mattie, the home retains most of its original features. The lot was purchased in 1935 as a part of the new Greenlawn Development subdivision and carried deed restrictions requiring the owner “not build a building of any character on this property unless the total cost thereof amounts to at least $3,500.”

The Mitchell House

The Mitchell House is an example of neoclassical style architecture. Built as the home of Castle Heights Military Academy president David Mitchell, it was completed in 1910. The three-story, 10,600-square-foot Sewanee sandstone structure had many original features such as hand-carved woodwork, ornamental ceilings and an impressive staircase. In 1936, the building became the home of the junior school for Castle Heights Military Academy. After the school closed in 1986, the home sat empty. The Cracker Barrel Foundation restored the structure in 1998. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Patterson House

Ginny Patterson lived down the street before buying this home, a Cape Cod-style quintessential part of the post-World War II building boom which became popular not only in Lebanon but in the rest of the nation. Common features of this style include a one-story cottage with lo attic space, symmetrical window placement on either side of a paneled front door, and simple door surrounds. Purchased as a lot for $500 in1945, the house was built by N. G. Maddux and wife Juanita. The Johnson, Williams and Swain families are past owners. 

The Caldwell Home

The neoclassical style Caldwell home was purchased by Kimberly Caldwell. The home’s style includes tall ceilings, large windows, three-brick-thick walls, as well as the original woodworking and a large wrap-around porch. The wooden bookshelf and French door in the staircase hallway were repurposed from the Lebanon Hotel, which stood on West Main Street. The house was the original home site for Nathan Green Jr. (1827-1919), a member of Cumberland University’s faculty for 62 years, including presiding as chancellor from 1873-1902. The antebellum home stood until destroyed by fire around 1912. At this time, his son, Grafon Green, and wife, Pauline, rebuilt the present house on the same site in 1913.  

The Ritchie Home

Karen and Jeff Ritchie became the owners of this Folk Victorian style cottage in 2006. The style was popular from 1870 through 1900 and is defined by the simplicity of the house decorated with exterior “gingerbread” trim. The bayed entrance area is another element as is the woodwork, high ceilings, large rooms and the front porch. The Ritchie house is in the East Spring Historic District, which was created in 2015.

Catron Alumni House

The Catron Alumni House was named in honor of Blanche Paty Catron who was responsible for the creation of the alumni house and its furnishings in 1998. Catron was an active supporter of the university. She was a recipient of the Award of the Phoenix in 1979, an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 1998 and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 2001. Before it was the Alumni House, the building served as the president’s house. Ernest L. Stockton Jr. (1958-83) was the first resident, and Claire Martin (1995-2000) was the last Cumberland University president to live there.

Historic Lebanon executive director Kim Parks said the tour’s core mission but added the annual Historic Places tour also kicks off the holiday season for the nonprofit.

“We started this tour to highlight historic neighborhoods and the need to preserve them and believe we have been successful in this regard,” Parks said. “I like to say, ‘The tour shows how to live a modern life in a historic home.’

“The annual Historic Places Tour is a great way to spend a wonderful night in your community and to support local historic preservation efforts.”

Tour sponsors this year were Ligon and Bobo Funeral Home, C. Tracey Parks Law Office, Main Street Property Management, THW Insurance, Thackston Family Foundation, Wilson Bank and Trust, the city of Lebanon, the Wilson County Commission and CedarStone Bank.


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