Goodbye Little Yellow House

The dogs and I were out for our morning constitutional a few weeks ago, and the air was full of a slow cranking whirr, not loud but not soft exactly, the source of which revealed itself as we turned on to Prince Lane.  A big power shovel truck was digging and dumping the last bits of the old yellow house that had sat on the lot here for as long as anybody had known. “I meant to tell you yesterday,” my wife said. “The bulldozers were knocking it down.” Various neighbors had gathered, all taken by surprise somewhat.  I guess we all knew the yellow house was a goner, but nobody expected it to just happen one morning.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 9.29.49 PM

I drove my boys by the site an hour or so later.  “What!” said the younger one. “Hey, I love that house.”

“Loved,” corrected his brother. “Besides, you were never even in it.”

“So what? It was part of the neighborhood.”


I mentioned to one of my students, who had worked there when the Community Action Committee was using it, that the house had been torn down.  She fairly danced a jig. “That place was gross, and should have been demolished years ago!” she said with evident glee.  Others I heard from were less happy.  Some feared that the Senior Center next door, which had been an old army barracks in Tullahoma, might be next for an unscheduled visit with the bulldozers. It’s a baseless fear, of course, but the loss of Rebel’s Rest to fire in July, and this old house a month later, has some folks jittery.


The dogs and I were out again a day or two later. Jerry Smith pulled up in his truck just as we were turning the old familiar corner.  I told him what my student had said.  He agreed that the house needed to come down. “But they might have let us know so we could study it a little beforehand.  Look,” he said, and showed me board or two he’d pulled from the rubble. “These nails aren’t machine-made. From the style, I’d say they probably date to the 1870’s or 80’s. The house itself might be older. It might have been pre-University in fact.”

We walked around a little bit. The debris was mostly gone at that point, and straw had been laid down. I realized that, to get through to the house the trucks had knocked down a tree with an enormous rose-bush growing inside it. Last spring, I remembered, I had cut one of the roses to surprise my wife with. Gone now, along with the house. The dogs rooted around in the straw, and didn’t seem to miss the house or roses much.


Postscript.  About twelve hours after the dogs and I saw the wreckage originally, the following e-mail came out from the University. 

Good evening,

I want to let the campus community know that the “Yellow House,” immediately adjacent to the Sewanee Community/Senior Center on the corner of Lake O’Donnell Road and Prince Lane, has been torn down. This decision was made due to the building’s structural instability and a very high cost to renovate it. The old house has seen a number of varied uses of late, most recently as a temporary space used by the Community Action Committee of Otey Parish.

An increasing number of issues surrounding the main building systems led to the decision to raze the structure, including significant structural integrity concerns, plumbing failure, an antiquated electrical system, and a failing roof. We hope to have this project completed by August 22.

Make it a great day!

A fait accompli, as they say.  Make it a great day.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Dogs, Family, Sewanee, Trees & Flowers. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Goodbye Little Yellow House

  1. GSW says:

    This action and its fait accompli announcement seems to justify the concerns of those who believe the fate of Rebel’s Rest ought not be decided only by the administration according to its lights. I don’t know the history of the little yellow house and I am no expert on Rebel’s Rest but I do know it to be one of the last original structures from the first days of the University and worthy of reconstruction and preservation as history. Whatever one may think of that history and of the name Rebel’s Rest, it is a part of Sewanee’s history that it ought never attempt to obscure or put out of sight.

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