Fire Destroys Marymont Mansion

Lisa Marchesoni, the Daily News Journal, January 21, 2004

A Tuesday fire destroyed the two-story antebellum home, Marymont, constructed in the 1800s on Rucker Lane, sheriff’s deputies said.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation, said Marymont was one of the best Greek revival houses in the county.

“It’s a real loss,” West said. “I’m sorry to hear this news.”

Deputy Jack Keisling said the fire apparently started in an addition to the back of the home, which is owned by the Jim Donnell Family Trust.

The occupant, Mark Johnson, told Keisling he believed the fire started in the addition that housed the water heater.

“It’s gone,” Keisling said, describing the damage to the home.

Sgt. Glenn Morton said the damage to the house was “pretty extensive.”

The house sustained smoke damage in the newer part of the structure with significant damage in the back where the fire originated, Lt. Randy Faulk said.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, Marymont was one of the showplaces of Rutherford County. In the 1993 book, “Hearthstones,” published by the Oaklands Association, the home was described as one of “the most significant extant antebellum houses in the county.”

Built by slave labor, the house grew in prominence under the ownership of Nimmie Jenkins and her husband, Dr. J.J. Rucker. Among the prominent guests at the home were former first lady Sarah Childress Polk.

West said the plantation was owned by brothers Hiram and Nimrod Jenkins, Nimmie’s father. Nimmie and Dr. Rucker made it a showplace. Dr. Rucker practiced in an office near the road.

He was sure the house was looted during the Civil War occupation.

The Ruckers added the huge, paired ionic columns.

“There are two columns on either side of the entrance,” West said. “You don’t see much Southern coastal Green revival styles. Those columns are of that architectural detail you just don’t find on other Rutherford County homes.”

West said he liked the prewar house and post-Civil War additions added by the Ruckers. When they started to recover from the war, they added a whole layer to the colossal entrance to the house.

The house was named Marymont for the Ruckers’ daughter, Mary Rucker Donnell. She was a great antique collector.

Firefighters from Salem-Blackman, Rutherford, Christiana, Almaville and Rockvale volunteer fire departments battled the flames and tried to save the home. Emergency Management Agency officials and the American Red Cross responded.

A dog that apparently suffered burns was treated by Animal Control officers.

Detective Randy Groce was expected to investigate cause of the fire.

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