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Blythewood: Famous Architect Grandson & Tie to Belmont Man.

Updated: Jun 26

109 Blythewood Dr. Columbia, TN

Circa 1856-59. 2-story French Colonial style home

Blythewood was built on Blythewood Dr. near Trotwood Ave. and Hatcher Lane in Columbia.

The French Colonial house (unusual for Tennessee) was built for Thomas Woodfin Keesee (1816-1885) and Elvira N. Keesee (1822-1895). He and business partner Thomas W. Turpin were carriage makers with a business on East Main St. who prospered. Between 1850-1860, Keesee sold the carriage business to J.D. and J.J. Sarven and turned to farming. By 1860, Thomas had remarried to Elvira N. Keef. His son, William, was killed in the Civil War.

Photo by rossograph

In 1864, he sold the property to Mrs. Rachel Lenore Wilson. Her grandson was James Edwin Ruthven Carpenter, Jr. who was a famous builder. Called the “father of the modern large New York City apartment,” Carpenter built numerous buildings including the Maury County Courthouse, the first 5 buildings of the Columbia Arsenal (Columbia Academy campus), the Hermitage Hotel, the old St. Thomas Hospital, and Kirkland Tower at Vanderbilt University.

Mrs. Wilson sold the property to Pinckney C. Bethell (1816-1884) and Harriet E. Smith Bethell (1819-1888) of Memphis in 1879. Harriet's family owned a large sugar plantation, and Pinckney helped manage it and started his own ventures successfully in Memphis. He had planned to use it as a summer home to escape Memphis heat but found that Columbia summers were hot as well. Their daughter, Hattie Bethel Acklen, married Joseph Hayes Acklen, Jr. in 1871. They owned Acklen Hall. His parents were the Joe. and Adelicia Acklen of Belmont.

Five years later,in 1884, Bethell died, and the house was sold to Col. Robert Eldridge (R.E.) Rivers (1833-1903) and Lida Rivers (1852-1932) in 1886. His first wife was Seymour Longley Rivers (1845-1875). He was a businessman and hotelier from New Orleans and had built the St. Charles Hotel as well as owned and run The Hotel Pickwick and The Hotel Royal.

The property was sold the same year to Col. Ethelbert Henry Hatcher (1847-1917) and Florence Phillips Hatcher (1861-1941). His first wife was Mary "Polly" White Hatcher (1801-1876). Hatcher's father was rector of United Methodist Church in Columbia. He was an attorney. They named the mansion Blythewood for his ancestral family name of Blythe and wood for the great oak trees on the property.

From 1960 to about 1971, Dr. John Henry Woodard, (1888-1960) and Susie Lillian Hendrix Woodard (1894-1951) owned the home. Their daughter and son-in-law, Mattie and Lloyd West, lived with them until 1971 when they purchased Church Barrow House and moved there. The home was vacant from 1971-1973.

In 1973, Jerry Dowling, James Campbell and Ray Hamilton bought the property. At one point, it served as the business office for William Funeral Home. In 1994, Dr. Gordon Vire and wife, Dinah, purchased the property, and a year later, Dr. Vire moved his Dermatology practice to the property. He worked out of the home until 2007. Since 2015, the home has been repurposed by the Vire family into the Blythewood Inn Bed & Breakfast. NRHP 1973 See Acklen Hall, Belmont, Church Barrow House


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