Butler Mansion not only has new owner, but has been given a Christmas touch
The historic Butler Mansion in Hampton has new owners, who have added a bit of Christmas magic to the Hampton landmark, transforming it into a showplace inside and out.
The new owners are Jim and Kim Mullenix, who moved here earlier this year from south Alabama, where there is an abundance of old, historic homes, which perhaps added to the couple’s liking for older homes and their heritage.
Kim, a native of Hampton, grew up on the Rittertown Road across from the old house. She always felt something special for the old house, which she passed every day en route to school when she was much younger. But, she never dreamed that one day she would own it and live there.
Earlier this year when the house was put on the market, she and her husband, Jim, retired from the military, were seriously looking at moving and buying a home. “When we learned about the Butler home being for sale, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for us as we had been looking at old houses in Alabama, but it was also ideal because it brought me home, and it was a house I was very familiar with,” Kim shared.
Kim is the daughter of JoAnn Morgan of Hampton, a former teacher at Hampton Elementary School.
Kim’s husband, Jim, grew up far from Hampton and south Alabama — on a small island off the coast of Alaska. The couple met in Savannah, Ga., and have lived in the Florida Keys, inaddition to coastal Georgia.
Since closing on the house in early April, the couple have been busy making the old house into a home. They have had to do some repair work on the roof, on the joists, and foundation. “It had sit vacant for a long time, and that is tough on an old house. So, we had to find ways to make it a home again,” Kim said, noting that she had a lot of information to work with even though she had never been in the house until just before she and Jim purchased it.
“I was very familiar with the house and its history. It was always such a beautiful old place. I was always drawn to it. But, it’s more beautiful than I ever imagined,” she shared.
The house more recently was owned by local realtor Jimmy Street and before that by James Matheson.
The original owner was Elijah Simerly, the founder of Hampton, who built the house around 1863. Hampton is the maiden name of his wife.
Simerly was the President of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad from 1867 to 1871. He also served several terms as sheriff of Carter County before the Civil War and was very active in the war, figuring prominently in the bridge burnings and the Carter County Rebellion.
The house was acquired by A.H. Robinson in 1907.
Three years later, in 1910, the house was purchased by Nathaniel Edwin Harris, who probably was the most famous owner of the house. He served as the 61st governor of Georgia and was a Civil War Confederate veteran. He was also the founder of Georgia Tech University. Taylor, who was close kin to the Carter County Taylors, was married to Hattie Jobe, daughter of Dr. Abraham Jobe of Elizabethton. The doctor and his family lived in the large frame house on the southwest corner of Hattie Avenue and Riverside Drive across from the Covered Bridge. Hattie Avenue is named for Hattie Jobe Harris.
Gov. Harris and his wife returned to the Hampton home each year to spend the summer. The governor died there in 1929. His widow, Hattie, continued to live there for a time.
The house was purchased in 1936 by Ralph U. Butler, who operated manganese mines in Cedar Hill, Tenn., and Shady Valley. Manganese from the mines was used to make steel during WWII. His wife, Marguerite, was very active in the community and did private duty nursing at the old St. Elizabeth Hospital and Franklin Clinic as well as the Carter County Memorial Hospital.
The large two-story Italianate-style structure, located at 206 Main St., Hampton, has long been a landmark in the community. It earned a place on the Tennessee and National Register of Historic Places in 1996 through the efforts of the Butlers’ daughter, Margaret Jane Umholtz.
The house has some unique features, including its 18-inch thick brick walls, hip roof embellished with scroll brackets, and elaborately detailed facade entry and porch. Inside, the house retains appealing examples of mill work, particularly in its parlor doors, fireplaces and built-ins.
The house boasts 20 rooms featuring beautiful wood flooring throughout with 11-foot ceilings, seven bedrooms, and nine fireplaces with tons of character.
A photograph from the 1930s shows the house with a hotel sign, suggesting that at one time it was used as a hotel or boarding house.
For Kim and Jim Mullenix, the Butler Mansion is now their mansion, and a place they call home. This Christmas, for the first time in a long time, the old house has a family and there’s a bit of Christmas magic lurking inside.