Hidden in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains is a magical place… A home with a rich history and a story uniquely its own.
John Love Ellis was born in 1788. At the age of 45, he began construction of what would become one of the areas grandest homes of its day.
Sitting atop a hillside in the middle of his 400 acre farm, the family estate was built entirely of brick. These bricks were handmade one by one of the rich clay dug from the property. Historians estimate it took masons, along with the help of upwards of 20 farm hands, seven years to complete the stately home by the fall of 1840.
The construction of every exterior wall as well as the interior structure is in masonry terms, “four course” or four bricks wide. The 18 inch thick walls have not moved in almost 180 years, giving testimony to the time and effort of a seven year project – built to last the passing of the better part of 20 decades.
The two-story structure boasts of five chimneys servicing eight fireplaces. All of the original wood including floors and ceilings, from the rafters to the cellar beams were made of trees cut from the wooded areas, separating the home from the vast open farm land.
The floor joists, only visible from the walk-in cellar, are complete 24 inch diameter tree trunks with the bark still intact.
Building what is now a historic treasure was far from John’s only accomplishments. Mr. Ellis was also a well-respected businessman and entrepreneur. Being a man of means, he was heavily involved in the surrounding communities. Mr. Ellis owned and operated several businesses located along the original stage coach road which ran though his land connecting the future town of Sevierville with the already established city of Knoxville.
The Ellis farm provided annual crops of primarily wheat and cotton, which would be moved down the French Broad River by way of the riverboat trade Ellis operated. His land also produced sorghum crops to supply the nearby candy company the necessary sugar to create their confectionery treats.
He owned and operated the sawmill providing building materials for his own estate, as well as the ever-growing neighboring community.
Along with many contributions to the area, he donated the land and building materials for his eldest son to build the church for the Presbyterian congregation of the Boyd’s Creek community. Adjacent to the Cardwell Manor, the church still stands across the street from the Ellis home. The original bell still rings every Sunday morning calling nearby believers to join in fellowship.
Ellis is immortalized in both street and subdivision names scattered across the original 400 acres. John Ellis and his wife Mary, along with their descendants are laid to rest under prominent monuments in the Boyd’s Creek Cemetery. The Ellis family monuments, like the home they built, both still stand on the land that once provided a way of life for his servants, staff and two generations of the Ellis family.
John and Mary had been blessed with four children. The eldest daughter married into the Widener family. The Widener family occupied the home for the next two generations, ending in a three-year vacancy due to a bitter sibling dispute over who was to inherit the home.
As if time had stopped, nothing was removed from the home. Even the pots and pans remained on the stove from the last family dinner. Unable to come to a resolution, the family had no choice but to sell.
It wasn’t until April of 1972 that Bobby Stinnett and his wife Carolann acquired the Ellis home. After the long vacancy, the house was in disrepair and in need of much renovation in order to raise their three sons. Kitchen upgrades, as well modern bathrooms were added. For the first time in the history of the home central heat was installed replacing the wood-burning fireplaces and potbelly stoves to make the winter months comfortable for the Stinnett family.
Over the following years, Mr. Stinnett along with the help of his father-in-law built an addition to the original house more than doubling the size of the home to the 4,500 square foot structure it is today.
In December 1986, it was time for the Stinnett family to pack up and move away… a quarter of a mile away! Fortunately close enough to remain friends and firsthand historians sharing memories of the home and its renovation, as well as stories passed to them from the previous generations that occupied the Ellis Mansion.
The home was purchased in 1987 by the Brenner family. Mr. Brenner’s passion was landscape design. The grounds were a well manicured showcase for a wide variety of flowering plants and trees. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the weeds to take hold when the Brenner’s left the home in late 2010. Once again the house sat uncared for and unoccupied for the next seven years.
Beyond the iron gates was now a sad shadow of “once upon a time”. The elements, neglect and vandalism had left their calling card in boarded up broken windows, shutters hanging Rogan from their hinges and gutters lying. Beneath the weed overgrown garden’s. But that was all about to change.
One day in the spring of 2017, Terry Evanswood and the Ellis mansion had the mutual good fortune to meet. It has been a beneficial relationship and new chapter for both. Terry has been given new shelter, providing a fresh creative pallet. The Ellis home has been given a new life with attention to historic restoration as well as theatrical elements to both educate and entertain countless people who have and will enjoy this time machine known as Magic Mansion.
Now you are invited to venture through the secret passageway where history and magic meet to create a once seen-never forgotten experience! Join us for the most magical tour destination in the Smokies as Terry Evanswood invites you to visit historic “Magic Mansion”.