By Hollie Deese
What was once just a weekend lakeside getaway for Stewart and Samantha Stowers has become a full-time home full of love and life for their family that not only incorporates the beautiful nature that surrounds the property, but honors the historical background of the house as well.
The Stowers bought the home on Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin in 1998 from former Governor Winfield Dunn and his wife Betty. Dunn had been a patient of Stewart’s and the two got to know each other over the years, but it was through Stewart’s realtor that he found Dunn’s lakeside property that has hosted numerous politicians over the years.
“He always told me he had this place up here that was his little plantation, that’s what I remember him calling it,” Stewart said. “I never knew where it was, but I came back with a realtor and realized it was his because it had a sign on the front that said ‘The Dunn Inn.’”
The Stowers ended up buying the home that at one time was just a single room, flat-roofed fishing cabin that had been expanded by the Dunn’s into a larger house with a great room and screened-in porch by the time the Stowers took ownership.
“He and Betty had gradually expanded and expanded it, but it was still kind of a cabin because it the bathrooms were tiny, it had no closets,” Stewart said.
The layout was just fine for the couple looking to get away from Nashville every once in a while, but in 2009 they made some big changes in their life, and that meant the house was in for some big changes as well. That year, Stewart retired from his medical practice while Samantha was expecting a new baby and it was then they decided to sell their Nashville home and move permanently to their lakeside retreat in Sumner County.
“When I got pregnant I knew immediately that I wanted to live up here full time,” Samantha said. “A child should have the benefit of being able to explore the outdoors and this place is perfect for that. I love this area because it’s close enough to offer great restaurants and shopping and still have that small town feel.”
But first the weekend retreat needed extensive remodeling to make it work just right as their full-time family home. They stayed true to the floor plan of the original house as much as possible but made it work for a modern lifestyle.
“What it did have was a neat porch and a fabulous great room,” he said. “We took the floor plan of the original house and kind of put it on steroids. For instance, the current living room is the exact same size as the original living room. There was a pass-through kitchen, but the kitchen was tiny. Everything we did was to take the parts we liked from the old house and expanded it.”
The end result is a 5,100-square-foot home with four bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and 15 rooms total. A guest area was transformed so the bedrooms faced the lake instead of the front, and a second story and carriage house garage was added.
And with Stewart’s retirement he was able to take on the task himself, acting as architect and designer of the Cottage Style home. Using experience he gained while building another house in Nashville with an architect on current computer assisted design programs he was able to design the house of his family’s dreams before taking it to a professional engineer to develop the framing plan.
“He’s one of those focused, one-track minded kind of people, so I’d wake up at 3 a.m. and he’d be sitting there on the computer designing,” Samantha said. “He’d be putting masking tape on the floor saying ‘Come stand in here. This is what the size of the bathroom is going to be like. Tell me if this is big enough.’ We are proud of the fact that we did all the design, inside and out, with the only professional help being our kitchen designer, Kathy Gray.”
The renovation of the house will always be an emotional memory for the couple as it is tied to the birth of their son, Jackson, 9, as well as the death of Stewart’s dad. “My best friend, my father, died suddenly that year,” he said.
And the land itself is special too. Located on 6.5 acres, it includes a remaining gift from one of Governor Dunn’s many hobbies, his fruit tree orchard on the hill above the house. Above the orchard is the family cemetery of the Bender family. In the 1800s this family ran “Bender’s Ferry” during the Civil War, transporting people across the river to Wilson County.
“It is really one of these pretty little cemeteries,” Stewart says
And of course, there is that amazing view of Old Hickory Lake. Best viewed from the 900 square-foot screened-in back porch – bigger than Samantha’s first apartment – the room features a stunning portrait-like view of the lake just outside and two swinging daybeds perfect for morning reflections with a cup of coffee.
“We love the privacy, the wildlife, the rural setting, and the people of Sumner County,” said Samantha, whose favorite time of year is spring, because of the flowering trees, gardens and animals. “We also love having a school such as Sumner Academy, which fills our needs for Jack’s elementary and middle school education.”