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The Stone House on Hackberry Hill

By Liz Lyons with photography by Jason Cantrell - Cadence Captures

Mary and Don Horton never intended to buy their current home. While driving to look at a home for sale down the road, the old, stone house on the hill caught Mary’s eye. She and Don pulled into the driveway of the empty house and peeked inside the window. It was empty, and Mary knew that this would be their new home. Don had other thoughts after seeing the hackberry tree in the front yard. He wasn’t fond of the sticky sap that drips from the hackberry and didn’t want one in his front yard, nevertheless he agreed to see the home. The night before they were to tour the home, a terrible storm hit. When the pair arrived, there was no more hackberry tree. The rest is history.

The couple purchased the home and began to make it their own. Their goal was to keep the structure and as many of the original fixtures and details as possible. The house was originally built in 1929 for Tom McCroskey, President of American Limestone, and one of six men who developed the 1930 Comprehensive City Plan for Knoxville. Mary became quite interested in the history of the home after moving in, and has many pieces of its history on display. It was designed by Baumann & Baumann from the Baumann family of architects, who began designing in Knoxville in the mid19th Century. This company is responsible for many of the beautiful buildings in town such as Immaculate Conception Church, Andrew Johnson Hotel, Hotel Oliver, Historic Westwood and Cherokee Country Club, to name a few.

With such thought and care put into the original design, it was easy to keep true to the home. The Horton family has spent the past 20 years enjoying and truly embracing what Mary refers to as “an old stone house with a soul”. Some of their favorite places to be are the many outdoor porches. Each has a different view; one can choose to enjoy one of the many gardens, the Tennessee River or the Smoky Mountains. The porches in the back of the home are the best places to spot a rainbow or a sunset.

During the colder months, you can count on a fire to keep you warm. The library, which
catches the evening sun through the original windows, is a favorite. Whether it’s roaring or
smoldering, there is not much more that the pair enjoy than a real fire in a wood burning

The first room that they made their own was the kitchen. They restored an original wall cabinet that was found in the basement being used to store fishing tackle. Additional cabinets and a hutch were built to match the original style, and custom tiling was installed above the stove. A favorite focal point in the home is the kitchen wall of art. Mary pointed out paintings by her children, their friends, Peninsula Hospital patients (where the family labradoodle serves as a therapy dog) and a few professionals, including local artist Janet Smith Lucas.

The formal dining room looks almost too perfect to disturb, but it’s where the Horton family enjoys all of their meals. Whether it’s just the two of them or the whole family pulling up with extra chairs, it’s a room for them to come together. The decor includes original family oil paintings, a dining scene piece painted by Nashville artist Streeter Spencer and cherished antique cabinets from Germany and France.

We’ve already decided we’ll have to revisit the Hortons this spring, so we can enjoy Mary’s many gardens. Bulbs are annually planted the day after Thanksgiving and include crocus, hyacinths, daffodil, tulip, Tuber roses and Iris of all sorts, many of which have been moved from Memphis and Nashville gardens or from neighboring gardeners’ gardens and woodlands. Native wildflowers are found throughout the six acre property, and the fieldstone foundation is wrapped in Annabelle hydrangeas.

This old stone house just works that way, as it seems to actually have a soul.

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