Alex Summers Comments on His Grandparent’s Mountcastle Hills Home

I recently corresponded with John Zollicoffer concerning the article I wrote about the wedding of his parents in Johnson City in October 1934. The nuptials took place at the bride's parents, James and Alice Summers' beautiful home in Mountcastle Hills. John passed our notes to Alex Summers who played a significant role in my Summers Hardware feature in 2009. “Dear Bob,” he wrote, “Glad to see you are still digging around about the Summers and Zollicoffers.”

“Mountcastle Hills,” Summers said, ” was the name and address of the property where my grandparents built and moved into in 1917. It was not the general area surrounding it. It was located near the city limits at the end of N. Roan Street at that time. There was (and still is) a short street named Barberry Road on the left (south side) that led to the property. Our house was at the end of the street. There was one other house there, known as “Aquone” (pronounced “uh-jwan-nee,” Cherokee for “resting place”) that belonged to Judge Samuel Cole Williams (financier of Mayne Williams Library).


“In 1916, my grandmother purchased 6.5 acres from Mrs. Carrie L. Gilmer for $250/acre ($1625), which had been part of the Gilmer farm. There must have been an earlier purchase either from Mrs. Gilmer or other adjacent landowners since at one time there were some 18 total acres. The Mountcastle property contained the residence, a swimming pool and bathhouses, a tennis court, a servants' house, a three-car garage with a laundry under it, a barn for my father's horse and the children's ponies, areas where chickens were raised, a garden where corn and other vegetables were grown plus an extensive nursery where my grandmother grew trees and shrubbery for the Monte Vista Cemetery.

Alex noted that although the house was fairly large for it's day, it was typical of other nice homes throughout the city. There were about 5000 square feet per floor, a full basement and attic, all the new conveniences of the time that included two furnaces with central steam heat, an elevator, electric refrigeration and a central vacuum system. Mr. D.R. Beeson designed the house in the latest style, which showed the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright.

According to Summers, Dr. and Mrs. G. Edward Campbell purchased the house about 1936 and renamed it Argyll. Mrs. Campbell had the house renovated by adding white columns across the front (see photo), replacing many of the windows with arched Palladian style windows and other refinements.

About 1987, the Campbell's daughter, Christine McCoy Frambach, sold the property to a developer who razed the house and the out buildings. The property was cleared and graded to a flat plateau where the top of the hill had been.

Alex commented about nearby Mountcastle Drive. “The former name of the road that became Mountcastle Drive was changed when a new link to Baxter Street was made after the mall was built there. The area was the location of an approximate 350-acre farm that was owned by Addie White Mountcastle, my great grandmother.

“The farm was located loosely between the Kingsport-Bristol Highway, Princeton Road, Mountcastle Drive and Lakeview Drive, extending almost to Oakland Avenue. Cobb Creek ran through the property creating Lake Wataussee (later renamed Cox's Lake by owner, Leon Cox). There was formerly a large frame house on the west end of what is now Mountcastle Drive where my grandmother was born. Sometime in the early 1890s, the Mountcastles sold the property to the Cox family (for a dairy) and moved into town.”

I have a third column coming soon that addresses Argyll and its ultimate demise. Alex, as always, you are a treasure trove of memories. Thank you for sharing them with us.