Our inspiration to buy a historic house came as a direct result of visiting the little English village Rugby in August 1988. Our wedding was nine months away, and we were thinking of where we might want to live. That trip to Rugby swung the decision toward an antique house, antique furniture, antique life! At home in my garret apartment, with its cathedral ceilings and cream-colored carpet, I read everything I could on Rugby and Rugbeans from the University of Tennessee library. And we started shopping for old houses.
We soon realized that there were no neighborhoods like Rugby in Knoxville. Our large southern city has not preserved very many of its historic houses, and intact historic neighborhoods are rather rare. A handful of residences from the eighteenth century are preserved as museums, and a somewhat larger collection of buildings survive from the nineteenth century, mostly large brick mansions converted to businesses or stately brick townhouse-style businesses converted to condominiums.
There are no surviving wooden structures with the Rural Gothic features of the 1850s to the 1870s: board-and batten siding, stick-style trim, arched doorways and windows. To see houses like these, one must read Victoria magazine, Old House Journal, or Andrew Jackson Downing's Victorian Cottage Residences—or go back to Rugby. To actually own such a charming house, one must move to another city, or perhaps another state.
We did the next-best thing: toured the few intact historic inner-city neighborhoods with their late nineteenth-century Victorian and early twentieth-century Edwardian structures. The 80-year-old Colonial Revival house we chose had the some of the features of a Rugby house: leaded glass, oak mantels, paneled wainscoting, and hardwood floors; a wide veranda, gable wings, tall windows, and original siding; a small garden, flowering trees, picket fence, and lily pond. We found the house in December 1988, made an offer in January, began landscaping and renovating in February, and officially closed in March. We began furnishing the house and combining our households in April, and we held a garden wedding in our wedding garden in May 1989.
We've begun celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our house and our wedding this winter and spring, and we'll mark the house's centennial this summer and autumn.