National Register of Historic Places – Williamson, Thomas, House

October 3, 2018, National Register of Historic Places

The ‘National Register’ is a phenomenal source of information regarding historic homes.  Search their database and you will find 49 properties as of October 1, 2018.

The following ‘Register’ entry is dated May 20, 1996:


Williamson, Thomas, House, aka ‘Burns Farmhouse’, is located at 2263 Little Rock Road near Eagleville.

The Thomas Williamson House is located on 4 acres in the southeast corner of the Eighth Civil District of Rutherford County, Tennessee.  The house is situated in a rural setting and faces south toward Little Rock Road about five miles northwest of Eagleville.  It is accessible from State Highway 99 via Jackson Ridge Road.

On the exterior, the farmhouse appears to be a two-story, vernacular I-house sheathed in weatherboard and asbestos siding.  However, the house is composed of two parts.  The east half of the house is a two-story, single-pen log house constructed in the early 1800s, and the west half is a two-story frame addition constructed in 1870.  There is a central hallway connecting the two halves.

The log house was the first house built on the property.  Its construction date is unknown, but it probably dates circa 1830 because of its form and materials.  A two-story, single-pen log house, sometimes referred to as a stack house, is characterized by two proportionately square or slightly rectangular blocks stacked one atop the other.  In such a structure, the logs are typically half-dovetailed and the doorway is roughly centered.  The chimney is also
located in one gable end, and a boxed-in stairway, usually with a little closet underneath it, provides access to the second story.  ‘”Die extant log portion of the Thomas Williamson House exhibits these characteristics.

A two-story, single-pen, frame addition and hallway were added to the west side of the log house circa 1870 to give it the appearance of a central-passage I-house.  This house style was particularly popular in the first half of the nineteenth century and especially in Rutherford County.  Middle-class farmers expanded then: homes into vernacular, I-house forms to reflect their prosperity and imitate the high-style homes of wealthy plantation owners in the region.

These homes typically feature a two-story Greek Revival portico.  The decorative Victorian spindle work on the two-story front porch of the house farther indicates that the frame addition was added after the Civil War and, combined with data about ownership, supports a construction date of circa 1870.  The house form changed in the rear when a shed addition was built circa 1945.

The Thomas Williamson House has a symmetrical, three-bay facade with single-centered doors on both levels, and a nearly full-length, two-story front porch.  Two concrete steps dating circa 1945 lead up to the wooden porch. The porch has squared posts on its first floor and round logs on its second floor.  The second floor doorway opens from the upstairs central hall onto the second story of the front porch.  This section of the porch has a slightly sloping wooden floor and significantly sloping, beaded-board ceiling.  It also retains its decorative Victorian spindle work. The spindle work on the porch’s first story was removed sometime after 1940.

The east elevation of the house shows the two-story, gable end of the original log house with circa 1945 one-story shed addition and a circa 1945 enclosed kitchen porch added onto the rear northeast corner.  Some of the logs of the original house are visible just above the limestone foundation piers, near the east exterior gable-end chimney.  Asbestos siding was added to the exterior walls around both east and west gable-end chimneys.  Both chimneys,
originally made of dry-laid limestone and brick, were encased in concrete circa 1945.  Two original double-hung, six-over-six windows exist in the single-story shed addition.  The kitchen porch has two smaller six-over-six windows in its eastern facade.  Beneath the porch window, the weatherboards were applied vertically.

The north (rear) facade shows the evolution of the house in the obvious second-floor roof seam, where the log and frame portions were joined.  The roof is uneven at this point, and a small offset exists where the frame section projects beyond the log section.  The evolution of the house is also evident in the later construction of the circa 1945, one-story shed addition that extends the entire length of the north (rear) side of the house, and in the enclosed, one-story kitchen porch extending out from the northeast corner of the shed addition.  A flue, located inside the kitchen, protrudes through the metal roof on the addition’s northeast corner.

The kitchen porch has five double-hung, six-over-six windows in its northern facade.  A glass storm door is located between the second and third windows of the kitchen porch.  Two concrete steps lead from the backyard up to the kitchen porch, which has a slightly sloping wooden floor.  A slightly offset ulterior door opens from the porch into the kitchen.

In the north facade, there are two double-hung, six-over-six windows on the second floor, one in each of the two upstairs bedrooms.  On the first floor, near the rear shed addition, there are two single and one double set of double-hung, six-over-six windows.  One single window is in the kitchen, but is hidden by the enclosed kitchen porch.  The double set of windows is located in the middle (dining) room. The other single window on the northwest side of the
house is in the ulterior cellar/storage room.

The west facade of the house has a single six-over-six, double-hung window on the northwest corner of the shed addition.  This is in the room where the cellar is located.  There are no second-floor windows on the western elevation.  An exterior chimney is centered in the west gable end of the two-story, frame section of the house.  Again, the chimney was encased in concrete, and asbestos siding was applied around the chimney and along the west-end of the rear shed addition circa 1945.

The entire foundation of the house is dry-laid limestone piers.  The roof consists of pressed metal shingles except for a small portion on the northeast corner of the shed addition.  This portion of the roof was repaired and covered in asphalt shingles.  All of the windows and doors in the house are original to the house’s construction.  The exterior walls of the house are all weatherboard, except for the area around both chimneys and the shed addition’s west
end.  These areas possess asbestos siding.

The interior walls are all wood except for the east side of the second-floor central hall, where the original hewn, half-dovetailed cedar logs are exposed.  There is no plaster or dry wall in the house.  Wallpaper layered over newspaper exists hi the two front rooms and central hall on the first floor, both second-floor rooms, and in the middle room of the first floor shed addition (dining room).  Both the wallpaper and newspaper are peeling, making the horizontal wood walls easily visible.  Horizontal beaded boards exist on all the kitchen walls and on part of the dining room’s south wall.  The mostly random-width, pine/softwood floors are all original.  The only plumbing in the house is in the kitchen.  There are no bathrooms.  Electricity was installed in the house circa 1945, but vandals have since broken
into the home and stolen the copper wiring.  All of the extant light fixtures hi the house are circa 1945.

The interior of the Thomas Williamson House is an interesting adaptation of the central hall, I-house plan, with a shed addition extending along the entire rear length of the house.  An enclosed porch extends from the northeast corner of the shed addition.  With the exception of the addition, the house is one-room deep, which is typical of the I-house plan.  However, the traditional central hall plan is only fully realized on the first floor, where doorways on either side of the hall lead into the front room parlor and bedroom.  On the second floor, there is a door on the west side leading into a second story bedroom, but on the east side, there is only a solid log wall.  The only access to the east, second story bedroom is by a staircase in the room directly below on the first floor.

The front door has a single-pane transom and two bull’s-eye corner blocks in its interior architrave and opens onto the first-floor central hallway.  This hallway contains the original open-well, two-run stairs leading to the second floor. The stairs begin along the west wall and ell back along the north wall.  A small closet or storage area exists under the stairs.  The baseboards in the hall are six and one-half inches high.  Three interior doors open off the main hall.  A solid-wood door on the west wall opens into the west chamber.  A four-panel door near the east wall opens into the east chamber, and another four-panel door in the north wall beneath the stairs opens into the middle chamber of the rear shed addition (dining room).

The west chamber, located in the circa 1870 frame portion of the house, was originally used as the parlor.  Here, random-width, white-painted, wooden boards extend horizontally around the walls from the floor to a height of thirty-four and one-quarter inches.  This configuration creates a unique decorative effect similar to wainscot.  The fireplace in the west wall of the room retains its original wooden, pilastered mantel, which is painted white.

The fireplace here and near the east chamber were both filled hi with concrete and now contain small, natural gas heaters.  The random-width, wood floor and ceiling are also original.  The ceiling here has exposed, white-painted, wooden beams.  A single six-over-six window looks from the room onto the front porch.  The north wall shows evidence of another single window that was removed and its opening boarded up when the rear shed addition was built circa 1945.

The east chamber, entered through the door in the east wall of the hallway, is in the original log portion of the house.  It retains its original fourteen and one-half inch high baseboards, original pilastered, wooden mantel, and random-width flooring and ceiling.  Both the ceiling and mantel are painted white. A boxed stairway, also painted white, begins along the north wall and ells along the west wall of this room, providing access to the second floor.  A small
closet or storage area exists under the stairway.  In the south wall, a single six-over-six, double-hung window looks onto the front porch.  Directly opposite the window on the north wall, a four-panel door opens into the kitchen.

The door in the north wall of the first-floor central hallway leads into the dining room, the middle room of the house’s rear shed addition.  The floors in the dining room, as well as in the shed addition’s other two rooms (kitchen and interior cellar/storage room), are more uniform than those in the older sections of the house and are about three-quarters of an inch wide.  Double six-over-six double-hung windows are centered in the north wall.  Three doors
open out of the dining room: a three-panel/three-vertical-pane door on the east wall leads into the kitchen; a solid-wood door on the west wall opens into the interior cellar/storage room; and a four-panel door near the room’s south wall opens into the first-floor central hall.

An original light fixture, installed circa 1945, hangs from the ceiling in the center of the room.  Both the dining room and kitchen ceilings are painted, beaded boards.  Beaded boards also exist on the dining room’s south wall.  It is believed that these boards were salvaged from an old ell addition that existed behind the original log house.  The construction of early ell additions was common among I-houses in Middle Tennessee in the nineteenth century,
and many still exist.  However, the construction date for this non-extant ell addition is unknown.  According to family reports, it existed until 1945 when the single-story, shed addition was built along the rear of the house.  The non-extant ell contained, in boxcar order, an unenclosed breezeway, a dining room, and a kitchen.  A fireplace existed between the two rooms, and a small covered porch opened off the kitchen’s east side.  This porch extended over the well, so that a person could pump water while still under shelter of the porch.

Immediately west of the dining room is the interior cellar/storage room.  The interior cellar is a unique architectural element of the Thomas Williamson House.  The cellar was built circa 1937 during the heydey of the home economics movement and measures nine feet one inch long, five feet three inches wide and approximately six feet five inches high.  It has limestone and concrete walls, a dirt floor and a wooden cover, and was used to store canned goods. Indeed, the cellar still contains some old canned vegetables and glass canning jars.

The date “1937” and the initials “S.E.R.” (standing for Searcy E. Ralston, a great-uncle of the current owner) are written hi the concrete near the entrance to the cellar.  However, this inscription may not refer to Searcy E. Ralston as the builder.  The family believes that Ralston perhaps helped to construct or make repairs to the cellar at this time, but he was apparently not known to do that kind of work.  The room has two single six over six, double-hung windows, one in the north wall and one in the west wall.  Another window existed in the south wall at one tune, but was removed and its opening boarded up with the construction of the rear shed addition.

The kitchen is located in the circa 1945 addition just east of the dining room.  Two smaller six-over-six, double-hung windows are positioned above the kitchen sink in the east wall.  A larger six-over-six, double-hung window is in the north wall and looks into the enclosed kitchen porch.  The door leading onto the porch stands to the right of the single window, but is mostly hidden by a stove placed hi front of it.  On the opposite (south) wall, a four-panel door opens into the east chamber.  Originally, a window existed here, but it was replaced with a door when the original, non-extant ell was added to the house.

Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and a central hall.  However, the two bedrooms do not connect and must be reached by separate stairways.  The main central stairway leads to a second floor hallway and the west bedroom.  The west bedroom is slightly larger than the east bedroom and exists in the newer, frame portion of the house.  It is accessed through a solid-wood door from the upstairs hallway.  The boys in the family occupied this room.  The east bedroom, where the girls slept, is accessed by the boxed stairs in the east chamber on the first floor because there is no door at the top of the central hall to the girls’ bedroom.  A solid-wood door exists at the ell in the boxed stairs.  Neither bedroom has a fireplace, although there is evidence of an earlier fireplace in the east bedroom.  Both second-floor
rooms have wide, wooden ceilings and random-width floors.

The second-floor central hall has no ceiling and consequently provides a glimpse of the framing inside the attic of the house’s original log half.  This upstairs hall is particularly interesting because it reveals where the old log house and the new frame addition are joined.

The half-dovetail notching in the cedar logs is evident here.  A two-panel, single-pane door in the south walls opens onto the nearly full-length, second-floor porch located on the south facade.

Currently, two outbuildings exist on the nominated property: a well house and a smokehouse.  The concrete block well house (NC) was built circa 1960. The smokehouse (C) was constructed circa 1925 and is located slightly behind and to the east of the house.  It is a wooden, rectangular building with a metal, front-gable roof facing west and extending over sheds on its north and south sides.


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