Tennessee Mountain Stories

Tupelo Homestead


A couple of years ago I wrote here about a treasured landmark on the Plateau, the Cumberland Homesteads.  After a little research for that article, I knew that the New Deal plan that created our homesteads was repeated in dozens of other locations around the country.  The homes south of Crossville, Tennessee were built of indigenous material that give them a unique look among the eleven floor plans all covered with our Crab Orchard stone and paneled with knotty pine.  Somehow it’s hard to imagine homestead homes that don’t look like that. 


Well a reader in Tupelo, Mississippi lives in an original homestead home that looks very different than ours.  She’s shared pictures of her lovely renovated house as well as an identical home that has not been restored and I just had to share them with all of you.

Using indigenous materials was ingenious for several reasons.  Certainly it was a cost effective decision especially when freighting materials across the country was more difficult in the 1930’s and probably much more expensive.  But it was also a secondary boost to the local economy as even more people were employed to harvest the materials.  So in Mississippi they have timber and plenty of it.  The first homes there are covered in wood siding – various types of spruce and pine are widely available in the state.  While the local stone continued inside the Tennessee homes, those in Mississippi incorporated brick.  In fact, the last ten homes built had a brick exterior. 

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I grew up among homes paneled with knotty pine and I love the look.   That’s what the Tennessee houses used throughout the interior.  With a plentiful supply of lumber in Mississippi I’m a little surprised to see a wall board in every interior picture of those homes. 


While some of the houses in Mississippi have been moved (as my reader’s home was) and renovated for modern homes, they are largely owned by the National Park Service and were used for park personnel.  Sadly they now stand empty and decaying.  The Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association must be applauded for refusing that fate for our homestead!


The project in Tennessee was much larger, with 250 homes built here compared to their 35.  Sheer percentages allow more of them to remain standing and thankfully most are still housing families just as they did eighty years ago.  And that’s the story of the renovated Tupelo home I’m showing you today.  The love that’s been poured into this home is obvious as you virtually walk its halls.  An original claw-footed tub sits in the small bathroom beckoning you to a long soak.  The screened porch was opened to a dining area with lots of light pouring in door and windows.  The new owner recovered every brick possible, cleaned them and re-built the fireplace.  Bordered by flowering plants and ferns the front porch screams Mississippi to me and I can practically feel the longed-for breeze on a hot Mississippi evening and taste sweet tea!


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