The Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association will present its Christmas Tour of Historic Homes on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, from 1 to 4 p.m. In addition to the Tower Museum, located at the junction of Highways 127 S and 68 in Crossville and the Museum House on Pigeon Ridge Rd., a number of the stone English cottage-style homes will be decorated for the holidays and open for viewing. Take advantage of this opportunity to see firsthand the workmanship that is apparent from the stone exteriors to the wood paneled interiors of the cottages.
When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he proposed a number of projects aimed at lessening the effects of the Depression. Subsistence homesteads were put forth as a project to provide employment, affordable housing and to give hope to those in stranded communities where opportunities did not exist. More than 100 such projects were approved throughout the United States and its territories. A map on display at the Tower Museum shows the locations of all of the projects.
The unique Cumberland Homesteads cottages were built from 13 different floor plans in the style of English cottages. About 250 homes built were constructed using native sandstone and pine, oak and poplar wood harvested from the project properties. The families accepted into the project lived in small barns on the property while the men learned construction trades such as electrical wiring and plumbing, lumbering and mill work, and stone masonry as they built the homes families were to occupy. When a family moved into their home, another family often rented the barn until theirs could be occupied and their home built. Nearly 200 of the homes remain today either as they were originally built or remodeled and updated to meet today’s demands.
It is of interest that the homes were wired for electricity before it was available on the Plateau. Additionally, modern bathrooms were installed in each of the cottages thanks to the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt to make sure that these homes were modern in every regard. To accomplish the modern bathrooms, the homes were sited on the property so that the well pump serviced the kitchen. A galvanized water tank was located in the attic with gravity feed to the bathroom fixtures.
The original home plans did not include provisions for heating as the architect thought that homes in the South were not subject to cold weather in the winter. Fireplaces were added to supplement the warmth provided by the woodstoves in the kitchens. The homes also lacked insulation and were not weather tight. During the winter months when snow fell, the snowflakes might be seen blowing into the homes where cracks existed. Still, the Homestead cottages were a step up for the homeowners and have survived through the years as the most successful of the housing programs of the New Deal.
The Homesteads House Museum on Pigeon Ridge Rd. suffered extensive tornado damage in 2001; however, this devastation allowed the home to be restored to original condition, eliminating modern materials and changes that had occurred over the years. The house is furnished with artifacts authentic to the 1930s and has been decorated for Christmas reflecting the style of the 1930s and 1940s.
The Tower Museum and gift shop will be open and visitors are encouraged to take some time to look at exhibits, enjoy the short DVD and enjoy a variety of refreshments. The gift shop has copies of novels and publications by local authors that are specific to the Cumberland Plateau and Homestead Community. Visitors will also find many other items appropriate for Christmas giving.
Tickets and a self-guiding map which are good for both days may be purchased at the Homesteads Tower Museum. Tickets are priced at $10 for adults and $6 for ages 6-12 years. For additional information, call the Tower Museum at 456-9663 or visit the website at www.cumberlandhomesteads.org. All proceeds support the mission of the Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, equal opportunity and employment organization.