© Norman Sperling, visited April 13, 2014
This village sprouted about 1880 because British author Thomas Hughes (“Tom Brown’s School Days”) sought a fresh-start opportunity for sons of British aristocracy. Only the first son inherited the big estate, and the others had to find something else to do.
This area of Tennessee is indeed lovely, though the soil is shallow. It’s memorably hot in summer and cold in winter.
Hughes and his colonists built Victorian homes and business and public buildings. There isn’t much gingerbread, but some decoration on top of the Victorian layout. A great deal has been restored, and some really nice original furnishings and structures remain.
The historic district does a lot right. A lot of buildings are publicly owned, the whole area is design-protected, there’s good signage, a good map, a nature trail, a video, a guided tour. They host an event every month. The library has all its thousands of original books from the late 1800s. New homes are permitted, but only on the original street plan, and only with compatible design. A few of those sport more gingerbread.
But they could use a lot bigger budget than they have. Big grants seem not to be actively sought. And many money-earning modes aren’t thought of. They could rent selected rare books and periodicals. They could host steampunk conventions, with photographers in the most likely settings with professional lighting already set up, so costumed fans can have their pictures taken really well in a lot of authentic Victorian settings. They could put together a traveling exhibit … keeping it free would encourage wider circulation as an advertisement for tourism. Not to mention using the whole town as a movie set.