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Photo gallery: Celebrating 200 Years of Rotherwood

Photos by Tim Mullen/TimMullenPhotography.com • Sep 16, 2018 at 4:30 PM
Rotherwood has been part of the Kingsport landscape since 1818. Dr. Lenita Thibault bought Rotherwood Mansion in June of 1991. It took almost seven years of extensive work and renovation to make the estate livable. Recently, Thibault hosted guests to celebrate 200 years of Rotherwood.

Read Katherine Scoggins' story about the bicentennial celebration, along with more history of Rotherwood.

"You are the One"

A few said the house was cursed. Many more knew it was haunted. Cursed because the two previous owners had died shortly after buying it. Haunted because ... well, there the stories are myriad.

The young girl must have been born loving big old houses, as she could never remember a time she didn't. She certainly had never lived in one, coming from a loving but poor family. Yet there had been a beautiful, big old house on the other side of the little country town in the South where she grew up and she often played there with her friends. It had wonderful huge rooms with high ceilings and a magnificent central grand staircase that halfway up divided to the left and to the right. Stained glass in the window at the landing beamed a kaleidoscope of colors which changed hourly as the sun moved across the sky. Rooms and cubbyholes were everywhere, making her feel as though she was playing in a giant old roll-top desk with nooks and crannies and secret hiding places everywhere. And on vacations, the young girl and her family often visited historic places. She reveled in the old homes ... and dreamed of someday living in one herself.

As she grew older, that dream never faded - yet it never seemed to come closer either. She discovered that one of her brothers shared her dream, and they used to talk of maybe, someday, sometime, sharing in the restoration of one of those magnificent older homes. She even cross-stitched a picture of one and gave it to him, the dream never fading for either of them. Yet still it all remained just a dream, a fantasy, a ghost mirage forever beyond her grasp.

The years went by. The young girl became an adult. The dream of the old house was still just a dream, but she was living another dream now. She was a practicing physician, having finally answered a call she had always felt but long fought. When the time drew near to settle down, the girl was living and working in Alaska. She longed to return to the South, to put down roots in the familiar soil that had nurtured her, the place that also nurtured so many wonderful old homes.

In a job interview in the town that would become her home, she saw THE house, and it was love at first sight. The house was grand, yet sad, elegant and refined beneath the tatters and neglect. It needed to be taken care of so that it in turn could take care of its inhabitants. It could not survive by itself, despite it having endured so long. Many feared it would soon be lost forever.

The girl who had always loved houses like this one returned home to Alaska, wondering if maybe her childhood dream was within her grasp. The real estate brochure about the house asked the somewhat corny question "who will clothe the grand lady and escort her into the 21st century?" Across the miles, the girl heard the house say "you are the one." She felt the pull, a connection, a link, all the while hearing "you are the one."

The brother who shared her dream helped her move to town. They explored the old house and spent time just looking at it. He smiled and his eyes twinkled when he punched her shoulder and said, "good job, sis." He died unexpectedly a few months later. But his portion of the dream lives on in her, and she felt his essence added to the others who had loved the house.

Though the brother can no more share the dream, she knows the house itself will continue as long as someone dreams, as long as someone hears. The girl is but one in, what is hoped to be, a long line of caretakers. The house has spoken to others ... It spoke to the girl ... Will it continue to speak?

A dream? Haunted? Indeed.

I am the girl.

The house is Rotherwood.

Written by Lenita K. Thibault, M. D., just before the beginning of the 21st century for the Kingsport Times News and reprinted with permission on the 200th anniversary of Rotherwood.
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