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National Register: Lowery House

William Lowery House, 405 East Madison Avenue, Athens built 1820s

Dating from the 1820's, the large frame house is noteworthy in part for its association with prominent persons in the area of McMinn County during the nineteenth century. The building is a fine example of the Federal style of architecture in East Tennessee and is one of the few remaining homes of this type in the McMinn County vicinity. The William Lowry House is the oldest remaining residence in the town of Athens.

On November 9, 1820, in Knoxville, William Lowry (1785-1854) purchased four quarter sections of land in the Hiawassee District, being the northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast quarters of Section 27, Township 4, Range 1 west of the Meridian. The southwest quarter was the one on which he built the nominated house. He paid $2.00 an acre for the northwest and southeast quarters, $7.25 an acre for the southwest quarter, and $8.00 an acre for the northeast quarter. When a site was being chosen for the McMinn County seat, William Lowry traded 29 acres of his southwest quarter to the county commissioners in order to have the town located on his property. On May 1, 1832, Lowry sold the commissioners an additional 31 acres for $5,000.

William Lowry was married to Polly McGhee Lowry and was prominent in the early affairs of the county being Chairman of the County Court at one time and Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court from the time it was organized in the county in 1844 until 1854. He had a large farm operation, a mill, and was also in the trading and merchandising business.

In 1860 Alexander Cleage, another prominent settler, acquired the farm and house for $20,150. The Civil War practically bankrupted Cleage and the property was sold after his death in behalf of his creditors.

The property then was sold to Capt. J.E. Raht, C.L. Rice and Wilberforce Gettys, all very

prominent men in this area. Wilberforce Gettys was a descendant of the Gettys of Pennsylvania for whom the township of Gettysburg was named. There is record of C.L. Rice and his wife Margretta (Senter) repairing the front porch and roof, painting, kalsomining and papering the interior. This was between 1877 and 1883.

The William Lowry House is the oldest residence remaining in Athens and a locally important example of the Federal style. The exterior of the building retains its original siding, fenestration, and chimneys. The interior is especially noteworthy for its fine Federal wainscoting, mantels, and other woodwork. The only significant modification to the building has been the addition of the present portico in the 1930's, prior to which there was a one-story, one-bay porch. The current owner is now considering removing the portico so that the building will be closer to its original appearance.


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