As one approaches the home at 1636 Hillcrest Road in Riverview from the street, classic red brick and white columns that both contrast with and complement each other grab the eye.
But once you step up a little onto the expansive front porch with its showplace setting somewhat private from other homes around it, you really feel like you have arrived – both geographically and in an aesthetic sense.
On Thursday, I had a rare opportunity to go to the house for a tour, and the next day I toured another well-crafted, large and classic home less than 100 yards away.
Both are for sale for over $2.9 million each, so my interest in them dealt with my working hours and not as a place to live after hours.
I simply wanted to see them and write about them as an admirer of the Riverview neighborhood dating back four decades. That is when friend Kurt Schmissrauter moved into the old home of Coca-Cola bottler Cartter Lupton when I was a senior in high school, and I soon began working at the nearby Chattanooga Golf and Country Club.
And because these two homes are for sale, I enjoyed a unique opportunity to see two of Chattanooga’s classic showplaces generally not accessible to the public.
This story will focus on the home at 1636 Hillcrest Road, and the other article in the near future will look at the other home.
When I arrived at this home, listing agent Ellen Brooks from Fletcher Bright Realty was there to greet me, as was local attorney Steve Winningham. Mr. Winningham’s family had moved into the home after his grandmother died in 1972, and he and siblings Lynn Winningham and Lupton Winningham have decided to sell the home.
That comes following the 2014 death of their mother, Peggy Winningham, a former teacher and accomplished and pioneering athlete. She had been married to attorney Richard Winningham, who preceded her in death.
In past decades, this more-than-100-year-old home would have likely been sold as is, and the home’s classic offerings and grounds kept pretty much as they are and deeply respected, with only minor updating. But times have changed in this neighborhood that seems to be becoming increasingly popular, and potential buyers might want to sell or develop lots around it. Or, even more sobering for historic preservationists, they might want to tear down the home or greatly alter it, Ms. Brooks admitted.
The home sits on a large 2.8 acres, and a relatively flat layout at that, and all these factors are being taken into consideration with the asking price at $3.15 million, she added.
The fact that the lawn and woods were so large made the estate enticing for Mr. Winningham, who said there were even more trees than exist today. “When you are little, it seems like a big backyard,” he said with a laugh.
A lot of his memories of the home are actually of his maternal grandmother, Mary Sanford “Snooks” Patten, living there. The reason was he was less than two years from graduating from Baylor School and heading off to college when his family moved into it from their former home on Mississippi Avenue in North Chattanooga.
But he certainly feels an attachment to the structure in the present as well. “I think it’s got great dimensions,” he said while standing in the entry hall/dining room, adding that he has always enjoyed such features as both the second-floor and roof balconies.
As we were talking, he presented me a copy of “The Patten Chronicle,” written by John Wilson and featuring a chapter on his family, and then signed it at my urging before heading on and letting Ms. Brooks lead me on the tour.
The tour began in the entry hall, just beyond the large front door with a nice transom window. Ms. Brooks pointed out the large and attractive dining room to the right and an equally eye-pleasing living room is to the left.
“I think the whole flow of the first level is just nice,” said Ms. Brooks as we began walking around.
But what I noticed was a direct line right down the middle, where, not one, but three features on display caught my attention.
Besides a nice wooden stairwell that was not overly pretentious, some real artistic wallpaper jumped out. According to Ms. Brooks, this was by Zuber & Cie, a well-known French company that has done wallpaper for centuries using wood blocks.
The design on this wallpaper shows some women of old doing wash and other chores along the river, with a bridge and a nice-looking stone mill in sight.
While these people were working, a quick glance up the stairs of the Winningham home along the same line of sight shows a backyard-facing room that might conjure up images of relaxation. Although it has been closed for a number of years, Ms. Brooks envisions it being possibly converted back to its original use as a porch or sunroom.
Behind the dining room on the right, also on the first floor, is a large kitchen, which has an island, although someone buying the house will likely do some updating there, as they probably will with the four full bathrooms and two half baths. The bathrooms were updated in the mid-20th century and still feature some delightfully colorful tile for those who love mid-century décor, however.
The five bedrooms with wood floors on the second floor are quite large, and one features a neat and unique small balcony over the front door. Needless to say, the multiple children of any future owners will likely fight for that bedroom.
Upstairs on the third floor is a recreation-type room, with an old billiards table and ball rack still there. From the rec room, one can go out one of the doors and onto a flat part of the roof.
Back downstairs – which can also be accessed via the other, less-formal stairway -- are such interesting features as large sliding doors that pull out into the dining room, and a still-operating elevator complete with a freight-elevator retractable door.
Outside is a nice carriage house with knotty-pine paneling and even an old picture of relative John A. Patten. It also has a nice sunroom added in more recent years.
The grounds still include several old hardwood trees as well as a pool/pool house and another garage.
But it is the main home that is the obvious focal point. Besides featuring a number of dignified architectural offerings, including wood floors about everywhere, the 6,704-square-foot main home also has a regal history – at least regarding May queens from Girls Preparatory School.
Longtime resident Mary Sanford Patten was the GPS May queen in 1926 when the ceremonies were held in the old Jackson Park that later became part of National Cemetery. Her two twin daughters – Charlotte Patten Gauss and Phyllis Patten Hardin -- reigned in 1953, after the school had moved to its current North Chattanooga location.
Those two had grown up in the house as the daughters of Chattanooga Medicine Company official Lupton Patten, and Mr. Winningham had a picture of them in their May queen dresses standing by the stairway and wallpaper.
Their other sisters were Fontaine Moore and Peggy Winningham, and Peggy’s daughter, Lynn Winningham, was May queen in 1976 while her family lived in the home, too.
And if four May queens living under the same roof at various times are not enough, the home was also apparently lived in by two more May queens. In the text of a 1976 historical society talk by Augusta Allison Lasley, the 1923 May queen, who had grown up in the historic home at 1661 Hillcrest Road, she said that she and her family lived in the home currently for sale for a period when theirs was under construction.
Not only that, but her younger sister, Evelyn, was born in the home, Mrs. Lasley said. And, yes, Evelyn went on to be the May queen in 1928 in a ceremony also held at Jackson Park.
Mrs. Lasley died in 1978, while Evelyn Allison South, who later lived in New Jersey, died in 1981.
The Hillcrest Road home for sale is listed as being built in 1910, but it may have been at least a year or two earlier as one of the first three homes in Riverview, based on Mrs. Lasley’s talk.
According to another detailed history article of the home written for a recent edition of the Lookout Mountain Mirror by next-door neighbor Judy Rowland, whose home is also one of the original three, earlier residents of the home included original owner Theo King and the John O. Fowler furniture family. (The third original home, a more modest structure above No. 2 tee at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, suffered fire damage in the late 1980s and was replaced with a new home).
Mr. King’s family was living at the home for sale when the Allisons, including the father, Judge M.M. Allison, stayed there. Ms. Allison said in her talk that the home’s lights were operated using gas fixtures, and that the King family kept horses and a cow on the grounds.
Mr. King had come to Chattanooga to be an official with Volunteer Life Insurance Co. He was also a state comptroller and later organized the Chattanooga Warehouse and Cold Storage Co. following personnel changes he did not like at Volunteer Life, Ms. Lasley wrote.
A check in the Chattanooga city directories at the library shows that the Kings only stayed at what is now 1636 Hillcrest Road for no more than about two decades and later moved to Edgewood Circle, also in Riverview.
The Fowlers then moved in, and the Pattens – Mr. Winningham’s grandparents – moved into it during World War II. It was evidently vacant for a short period beforehand, and the first year the Pattens are listed as living in it is 1944.
One sad bit of history related to the Pattens occurred at the home on Nov. 19, 1972. As is mentioned in “The Patten Chronicle” that Mr. Winningham gave me and profiled in more detail in a front page article from the Nov. 20, 1972, Chattanooga News-Free Press, Mary S. Patten died in her bedroom from smoke inhalation and had suffered burns after a small fire broke out.
Fire officials said at the time that cigarettes were found nearby, and a smoldering cigarette could have been the cause. By this time, Mrs. Patten was somewhat disabled, and a wheelchair was found next to her bed, the news story said.
She had evidently called the fire or police department in those pre-911 days, but the door was locked and firefighters entered the home via a window where they saw smoke.
One historical fact not known or detailed about the home, according to Ms. Brooks, is the name of the original architect.
But what is clear is that a classic large home of the finest architectural detail and craftsmanship sits at 1636 Hillcrest Road. And Ms. Brooks loves to emphasize that to potential buyers.
“People who come in, they find it to be better than they thought it would be,” she said with pride.
And the view is almost as good from the house as it is toward it.
“Nobody who comes in the house does not get impressed by the grounds,” said Ms. Brooks. “You can see Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain and the river from different spots.”
To hear Ellen Brooks of Fletcher Bright Realty discuss the home click here.
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This is the first of a planned ongoing series of stories about touring older Chattanooga homes and buildings that still have most of their original look and features.