With its wooden shingle siding, cottage shape and stone-lined front porch, the landmark home at 226 W. Brow Road on the bluff of Lookout Mountain has long looked like it was from a previous era of mountain life.
Evelyn L. Chamberlain, the home’s longtime resident, also seemed to be from another era due not only to her extraordinary long life, but also to what her friends remember as her old-fashioned graciousness and undivided attention to people.
Chamberlain died this past Dec. 15, just five days after celebrating her 101st
birthday and enjoying mostly good health until the end.
And the old home where she lived for more than 75 years until living her last few months at the Thrive at Brow Wood had held up relatively well, too. That is, despite the expected structural changes that, like with physical issues with a person, come with age.
The home has actually been sold twice in the short time since Mrs. Chamberlain lived there, and now new plans for the site are developing. After buying it in February from a nearby neighbor, who had bought it from the Chamberlain family late last year, Jay and Morgan Everett said in an email that they are building a new home for themselves and their four children.
The older structure is to be razed, but they said they hope to reuse some of the original materials. And they also hope to maintain the foundation of Christian faith and service that Mrs. Chamberlain and her family demonstrated while living there.
“We are awed by the stories of Hiram’s (her late husband’s) and Evelyn’s devotion and service to others,” the Everetts said. “And we have loved collecting treasures we’ve found in their home. The palm branch crosses are among our favorites. We have saved little signs found in Hiram’s room like ‘everyone can find excuses, but the exceptional man finds a better way’ and ‘nothing is impossible with God.’
“Both of these will be banners over our home as we raise our children.”
They added that they plan to use some of the stone, which they referred to as gorgeous, in the new home.
Jay Everett is a minister at Calvary Chapel Chattanooga, and Morgan Everett has deep Chattanooga family connections. She is the granddaughter of the late attorney John Morgan on her mother’s side, and is descended from the Frank Harrison Coca-Cola bottling family on her father’s side.
News about the expected changes for the site have been known publicly since an estate sale was held at the home on Jan. 26 and 27, when shoppers were told that the historic structure was to be torn down. The Chattanoogan.com ran a story about the news at the time.
The home’s old wooden doors and other historic fixtures were also for sale during the event.
The home did appear to have slightly unlevel floors and fading paint in places at the time of the estate sale, but it is not known what its overall physical condition was, although some extensive renovation would likely have been needed.
With a glance at some historical information at the library and from other sources, a little history of the home was revealed. And with some memories from a family member and some close friends, a window into the life of this woman who lived in the multi-story cottage was figuratively opened, too.
Tina Currin was a neighbor and member with Mrs. Chamberlain at Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal church on the mountain and was maybe one of her biggest admirers.
“I loved her to pieces,” said Ms. Currin, who in later years often picked her up to take her to visit friends and to the church’s ladies Bible study on Thursday. “She was beyond well liked. She was extraordinarily humble.”
As an example, she said Mrs. Chamberlain’s thoughts were totally on the person she was conversing with. “She was very present. She was a great listener.”
She also had a great memory, Ms. Currin added, jokingly saying that once she told Mrs. Chamberlain something, she knew her friend would never forget it.
Nancy Robinson had known her as well through the church and by living with her at the Thrive. She, too, was aware of her great memory.
“We’d be sitting at lunch or supper and trying to remember somebody’s name, and Evelyn would come out with it,” she said with a laugh, jokingly adding that she was sharper than the younger residents.
Mrs. Robinson had become involved at Church of the Good Shepherd beginning in 1980 and sang with Mrs. Chamberlain in the choir. And, like Ms. Currin, she now literally sings her praises, too.
“She was full of good stories,” Mrs. Robinson recalled. “Everybody loved Evelyn. She was a joy to be around.”
This attention to people was not just a façade she put on away from home, but also how she was around her family, relatives say. Daughter Emily Chamberlain recalled over the phone from her home in Bainbridge Island, Wash., how great a mother she was.
“There was so much to adore about her,” she said. “More than anything else, I remember her extensive capacity for love. We had such sweet moments of conversation. She was someone I could always talk to about anything. She was a blessing in my life.”
Evelyn Chamberlain had grown up on Missionary Ridge as the sister of Ben Landress, the longtime CBL & Associates shopping center development official. She attended Missionary Ridge Elementary, Chattanooga High, Girls Preparatory School (where she was the maid of honor at May Day in 1935) and the University of Chattanooga.
In 1938, she married Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain III in one of the earlier weddings in the Good Shepherd chapel.
Initially after their marriage, Evelyn Chamberlain and her husband lived on Kyle Street between Dodds Avenue and the crest of Missionary Ridge, but in the early 1940s, they moved up to the current mountain home. According to Emily Chamberlain, the home had been the summer home of Mr. Chamberlain’s mother, Emily, but the younger couple made it suitable for living year-round.
The elder Mrs. Chamberlain – the former Emily Wright – lived until 1955 and in later years was a librarian of the medical section at the Chattanooga Public Library.
An old schoolbook for sale at the estate sale had Emily Wright’s name in it above the words, “Girls Preparatory School.” Research of an old 1909 GPS yearbook with the help of Katherine Betts from the school’s development and alumnae office shows that she was a member of the class of 1910.
The 1909 yearbook under a profile of juniors said her chief characteristic was “intensity” and that her highest ambition was to go to Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.
Emily Wright Chamberlain’s husband, Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain Jr., had died relatively young in 1923.
The now-razed Chamberlain Field at UT-Chattanooga was named in honor of both Mr. Chamberlain Jr., who was a trustee of the school when it was dedicated in 1908, and his father, H.S. Chamberlain Sr. The latter had been a Union Civil War veteran, who became a coal and iron industrialist in the region.
Old city directories gave the address of their longtime Lookout Mountain home as 106 Fairview Ave., but by the 1950s the current address of 226 W. Brow Road started being used.
Here Evelyn and her husband raised their five children – Emily, Dr. Mary Ava Chamberlain of Ohio, George Chamberlain of Sewanee, and the now-deceased. H.S. “Sandy” Chamberlain IV and Thomas Landress “Tom” Chamberlain.
Evelyn Chamberlain’s husband, Mr. Chamberlain III, was an entrepreneur early in his life. Old city directories list such occupations as bookkeeper with James Supply Co., a treasurer of another local firm, and the owner of a venetian blind company and a coin-operated radio business.
Before his death in 1996, he later became associated with J.C. Bradford Co. as a financial adviser and also become an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church.
He was also an avid fisherman and golfer, who in 1949 played in the U.S. Amateur. Mrs. Robinson jokingly recalled a story Mrs. Chamberlain told her of the couple visiting Britain, but all Mrs. Chamberlain got to see were golf courses.
Back home, Emily Chamberlain recalled that the West Brow Road home site was a special place.
“It was an idyllic place to grow up,” she said, adding that Lookout Mountain was the best neighborhood to be a kid in. “I loved spending time on the bluff and in the woods below the home and the cave. It was just an overhanging rock but I called it my cave.”
Of the home, she said her favorite place was the porch, adding that they ate dinner out there every night when the weather was nice.
The whole home was a great place to be, she said, and her mother helped it be that way through her appealing manner.
“She was a remarkable woman,” said Emily Chamberlain.
The Everetts added that they are honored to have an opportunity to raise their family at the site of such rich and positive history.
“We plan to build on the Chamberlains’ character and create a place of light to be enjoyed by our neighbors, friends and even strangers,” they said. “We are excited about our new neighbors and the opportunity to create new life and memories at 226 West Brow.”