A view from the Top (Murfreesboro’s City Center)

Frank Caperton, The Rutherford County Historical Society, August 18, 2012

I was invited and honored to take a tour of the ‘penthouse’ atop Murfreesboro’s City Center.  Hard to believe the 16-story City Center was completed in 1988 at a height of (approximately) 180 feet.

Erin Edgemon, The Murfreesboro Post, April 22, 2007

Joe and Flo Swanson enjoy their penthouse view.

“We get up every morning and see the sunrise,” Swanson Sr. said.

High above the city of Murfreesboro, unbeknownst to most who walk or ride below, the couple has resided on the top two floors of the city’s tallest building for 17 years.

“It is a wonderful way to live,” he said.

The real estate developers now have decided that it is time for them to downsize. They hope to sell their 5,200-square-foot, two-story penthouse for an unspecified price.

Miles of breathtaking views from any of its expansive windows or 1,250-square-foot deck is perhaps the best amenity of this luxurious home some 187 feet in the sky in the City Center building on East Vine Street.

The Swansons have seen many thunderstorms and lightning bolts streaking across the sky, festive Christmas parades and brilliant Fourth of July fireworks displays from the comfort of their home.

“I had for a long time wanted to live on top of a tall building,” Joe Swanson said.

Once he even considered buying an abandoned water tower and converting the top into a personal residence.

But Swanson has always been a visionary, or so his wife of 48 years, said.

Swanson doesn’t want to do what everyone else is doing, which is why he said he was among the first here to drive Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles and previously lived in a 16,000-square-foot home they built off Franklin Road.

For some of the same reasons, he had his personal residence constructed atop the heavily secured City Center.

Swanson, National Healthcare Corp. and First City Bank (now AmSouth Bank) partnered to construct the 16-story building in 1988.

They had to go before the city three times to request to have the mini-skyscraper constructed downtown. At the time, the maximum height a building could be constructed in the city was 50 feet.

Parsley Brothers Construction constructed the building for the partnership. Harold Clothier of Houston was the building’s architect, and Larry Shoemaker of Nashville was the interior designer.

But Swanson said he came very close not to getting his penthouse.

Up until the night before the 16th floor was to be built, Swanson’s partners said the building should be strictly offices and that no one should be living there. Swanson managed to change their minds in the nick of time.

“When we first moved in, I felt it was like being on vacation until it came time to making the beds,” said Flo Swanson.

The building’s elevator opens into a lobby on the first floor of the lushly decorated penthouse, which leads into a sitting room and dining room. A large kitchen and classically decorated living room make up the rest of the first floor.

An unusual winding staircase leads from the first to the second floor of the penthouse. The staircase doesn’t have any supports; it is only attached at its top and bottom. It was constructed out of glass and walnut and has marble treads and brass handrails.

The second floor, with such features as skylights and fireplaces, has a den, a master suite, two bedrooms, bonus room, utility room and a separate apartment.

The master suite is equipped with a fireplace, his and hers closets with 360-degree mirrors and a bathroom outfitted with a whirlpool tub with gold-plated fixtures and high counters.

Ceilings in the penthouse are 19 feet at their highest point.

Joe Swanson said the walls of the penthouse are padded and covered with dark tapestries or silk. Other amenities include a central sound system, crown moldings and ceiling accents.

“We have loved it,” he said of the convenient downtown space. “It has been quiet. It is a great place to live.”

Despite having the space, Swanson said he and his family haven’t entertained much in their home.

But every Wednesday, the Swansons host a dinner for their immediate family and invited business associates.

“Partying is not where it is at,” he said. “Family is where it is at.”

But that doesn’t mean the Swansons haven’t hosted their fair share of dignitaries such as U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tennessee), U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and former Vice President Al Gore.

Swanson said he won’t miss his home in the sky once it is sold.

“We will take our memories with us,” he said.

Now as the Swansons are attempting to sell the home they have loved, they are working on plans for a somewhat smaller residence.

They wouldn’t share any details about what they are planning, but they said it would be just as cutting edge.

Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at eedgemon@murfreesboropost.com.

For more information on the Swanson’s penthouse, call Swanson Development at 896-0000.

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