Taylor House to keep historical integrity, say new owners

By Thomas Wilson

   The Nathaniel Taylor House was sold at public auction Saturday morning to a Johnson City couple who say they are determined to maintain the historical integrity of the 180-year-old home.
   "I am in shock but I am look forward to restoring the home," said Vivian Shipley Eckerson shortly after placing the winning bid of $202,500 at the auction.
   "It's going to take a long time, I think, but I'm going to get good advice from people in the Watauga Historical Association and the Taylor family."
   Eckerson and her husband Art purchased the house and 4.8 acres of land that adjoins Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course.
   "We liked it every time we'd drive by," said Art Eckerson, who is a member of the Historical Zoning Commission in Johnson City. "There are so few properties like this that come on the market."
   Scores of people braved chilly weather to watch the auction and bid on numerous items of personal property also on the block for the highest bidder.
   For Vivian Eckerson, the purchase returned to property to the Taylor family -- she is a descendant of the Taylor family that settled in the Bowmantown area.
   She said the couple planned to make the house their home after doing some interior and exterior restoration.
   "I'm very sentimental about historic properties and I don't like to see them torn down and I don't like to see them remodeled," said Vivian Eckerson. "I would like to see it stay as much as possible as it is."
   She said her ideal plan for the property involved her family residing at the home and maintaining its historical designation permanently.
   "And when I die, it can be made a historic monument forever," she said.
   The purchase pleased members of the Watauga Historical Association who had mounted a campaign to preserve the property's historical place in Elizabethton.
   "We are just tickled a family member got it since we didn't," said Association President Larry Blalock, who attended the auction in full colonial-era regalia.
   Descendants of the Taylor Family had made available $50,000 in pledges toward the purchase of the house.
   "We tried but the resources were just not available for that much money," said Blalock. "It went to the best possible person."
   Blalock said the Association would work closely with the new owners to assist seeking public and private grants to fund renovation of the property and home.
   Eckerson said developing the home as a future historic attraction was also "in the back of my mind."
   He said the couple hadn't engaged in the wholesale restoration of an old home, but were looking forward to tackling the challenge.
   The couple previously lived in an older residence in Kentucky before moving to Tennessee, said Vivian Eckerson.
   The Eckersons were among a handful of bidders on the house and property. Conducted by Goodwill & Street Auction Company, bids on the property opened at $125,000.
   "History will be made today," auctioneer Alan Goodwill told the crowd before beginning the proceedings. "Today, a new history is going to start -- where history continues is up to you."
   The Eckersons were required to pay 10 percent of the bid price Saturday and close the purchase in 30 days. Property taxes for the 2002 year are the responsibility of the sellers, according to the auction agreement.
   The house was built around 1819 by Mary "Polly" Patton Taylor, widow of Nathaniel Taylor, who was a state legislator and the first sheriff of Carter County.
   The house was reportedly started by Taylor, but was not completed until after his death. The house and the approximately five acres where it is located was part of Taylor's Happy Valley Plantation, initially known as "Rotherwood."
   Taylor was a son of early pioneer settlers of Tennessee. His father, Andrew Taylor, settled in what is now Johnson County in 1772.