Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Open House: Pritchett House

When you drive by the Pritchett house on what is now Boones Creek Road, you probably don’t even notice it. That’s because the home is neatly tucked away among acres of wooded farmland and can’t even be seen from the road. If you’re lucky enough to spot the property entrance and make your way up the long drive, it is then that you’ll realize the true magnificance of this hidden gem.
In the early 1930s, optometrist Dr. Tom Pritchett began to reconstruct the home, using materials from the original house, a structure that dates back roughly to the 1830s.
Pritchett lived and practiced in Knoxville. According to a Knoxville News Sentinel article published in 1934 about his restoration of the Jonesborough home, his father, Captain W.T. Pritchett, occupied the old place as a boarder just after the Civil War. The elder Pritchett later purchased the residence, which remains in the family today.
“That old house was pretty much torn down, and he just started over, but he used a lot of the old brick, and the materials from that old house,” said Dr. Pritchett’s daughter, Rose Slonaker, who grew up in the house and currently owns it, although she lives in Midland, Ga.
The bricks and wood from the original structure give the house a much older feel that belies its 20th century reconstruction. Beautiful hardwood floors grace almost every room while the bathrooms boast tile flooring. The small kitchen has a linoleum floor, and the den is the lone carpeted space.
Rough cut beams mark the downstairs ceilings in the living and dining rooms, giving both spaces a rustic, yet elegant, essence. Two full bathrooms serviced the family, along with four bedrooms, and a walk-in cedar closet located upstairs.
The windows seem to date back to the original reconstruction in the 1930s, with the rope and pulley feature that was standard for the era. And, according to Slonaker, they still work.
Slonaker’s mother, also named Rose, was working as a stenographer for the FBI in Knoxville in the same building in which Dr. Pritchett practiced when they met. The two fell in love and married, ending the elder Rose’s career.
“Her career ended at that point when they married, and they moved up to Jonesborough,” the daughter said. “Daddy started reconstruction in the 30s, and I don’t think he finished until he and my mother married in 1939. We probably moved in around 1941, just shortly after Tommy (her twin brother) and I were born (in 1940).”
Pritchett continued to practice in Knoxville, and in Jonesborough, in an office he had built over the garage. He commuted back and forth each week by train, and his arrival home on Saturdays was always eagerly anticipated by his family.
“We always took him to the train station, and we always picked him up,” Slonaker recalled.
Slonaker has many fond memories of growing up in the house. She especially enjoyed a fresh water swimming pool in the front yard where she spent every moment she possibly could on hot summer days.
“We lived in it, morning to night, and the neighborhood kids too,” Slonaker said.
The concrete swimming pool still sits outside the home, although it is no longer used as such.
The vast acreage behind the house provided a veritable wonderland for childhood rambling and games for Slonaker, her brother, and their friends.
“It used to be a producing orchard back there,” she said. “With different varieties of trees, mostly apples and pears and chestnuts.”
Slonaker also enjoyed interacting with the substantial menagerie she had when she lived there.
“We always had a lot of animals: rabbits, and chickens, and ducks, and guinea pigs, and goats, and dogs, and cats,” she said.
Occasionally Slonaker and her brother took a very special outing with one of their four-legged friends.
“My dad had a harness and cart made for one of our goats,” she explained. “As kids we would drive that goat cart down to the filling station for a drink. That was fun.”
The land functioned for years as a working farm, with tenant farmers living in the cottage that still sits just a few hundred feet from the main house.
“Daddy liked to come home and work on the farm. He just kind of piddled around with it,” Slonaker said. “We had people to put up hay, and we had tenants in that little house on the right as you come up the drive. They would always be there and help out with farm chores.”
But the fun wasn’t confined to the growing season in the Pritchett home, because being marooned in winter was a joyful time for the Slonaker kids as well.
“Back then we had some pretty big snows, and you couldn’t get in and out,” she explained. “In fact, some of the neighbors that had trucks would call and leave us groceries in the mailbox at the top of the hill. And we would sleigh ride. It was fun.”
Christmas was always eagerly anticipated. As a child, Slonaker said she was always sure Santa Claus would come bearing gifts down one of the five chimneys in the house.
“I’m not sure we knew which one,” she said. “There are two downstairs and three upstairs. They came from the original house, but we didn’t ever have fires. That would have been a little dangerous.”
Around 1950, Slonaker said her father made a few additions to the house. “He added the front porch, the den and the patio,” she said. “The (original) porch was just a fairly large stoop. The new porch went all the way across the front then. We had lots of picnics on the patio out back.”
Though many cheerful days were had in the house, some sorrowful times also came to pass under its roof. “My dad died in the house, as did my twin brother, so that was sad,” Slonaker explained. “But we had lots of company (then) and folks from Kentucky, because my mom (still) had a lot of relatives there.”
Slonaker’s mother eventually remarried after losing her husband and adult son, and spent most of the rest of her life in the house that meant so much to her, and is still seen as a treasure by her daughter. “She was crazy about that house, it really was her home.”