“God’s Answer to Our Prayers”

You can see both the Tennessee River and the Smoky Mountains from God's Answer to Our Prayers.

You can see both the Tennessee River, in center of photo, and the Smoky Mountains from the garden called God’s Answer to Our Prayers.

A few miles from downtown Knoxville — less than 10 minutes, for sure — lies a romantic, unique and inspiring garden called God’s Answer to Our Prayers – or GATOP, for short.

It belongs to a brilliant cancer physician and researcher, Dr. Alan Solomon, and his wife, Andrea Cartwright. Solomon purchased the 28-acre property in 1971 from a couple named Lynn Hobbs and Jerry Will. They’re the ones who named it. Seems they had been having a hard time finding a place because one of them just  had to live in sight of water and the other had to live in sight of mountains. This property filled both requirements, thus the name, “God’s Answer to Our Prayers.”

God's Answer to Our Prayers features a lot of frog images. Like this one on the edge of a fountain.

God’s Answer to Our Prayers features a lot of frog images. Like this one on the edge of a fountain.

It turned out to be something of a godsend for Solomon, as well. He had grown up in the Bronx and had planned to stay in Knoxville only about two years. More than four decades later, you couldn’t blast him out of here. At the garden, on Riverside Drive, he found several passions: plants, of course, especially conifers. But also collecting statuary, showcasing giant marble outcroppings and constructing stacked stone fences, which wind throughout the sprawling property. “I discovered that I’m actually a stone mason,” he said recently, with a soft chuckle. “My hobby is medicine.”

For more than 40 years, after learning the craft from a fellow he hired for the project, Solomon has been building the stone fences — to the tune of 8 to 10 feet per day in his heyday of doing it.

Several times a year, Solomon opens the garden to the public, often on behalf of a non-profit organization such as the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum or Knox Heritage. Earlier this summer, he invited Alan and me to drop by for a tour. I’m so glad we did.

God’s Answer to Our Prayers is built on an abandoned marble quarry. Story has it that it is the site where, back in the pre-automobile days when people in Knoxville used horses for farming and for transportation, a man made his living by picking up dead horses and tossing their carcasses in the quarry. “They say the stench would stop you dead in your tracks,” Solomon says. In any case, the environment is much more pleasant today.

The garden contains many beautiful fountains.

The garden contains many beautiful fountains.

This little piece came from Solomon's parents' house. His parents' ashes are buried beneath those two stones.

This little piece came from Solomon’s parents’ house. His parents’ ashes are buried beneath those two stones.

There is one of those stacked stone walls.

There is one of those stacked stone walls.

More stacked stone.

More stacked stone.

This elegant figure is near the house, where our tour started.

This elegant figure is near the house, where our tour started.

The rhododendron were in bloom when we visited.

The rhododendron were in bloom when we visited.

More rhododendron.

More rhododendron.

Interesting piece.

Interesting piece.

A reminder of the horses that were disposed of in the quarry. Solomon has found several horseshoes.

A reminder of the horses that were disposed of in the quarry. Solomon has found several horseshoes.

Marble outcropping.

Marble outcropping. “It’s a beautiful gray green color when polished,” Solomon said.

Another view.

Another view.

Frogs are everywhere. I like this one.

Frogs are everywhere. I like this one.

Solomon pointing out the sights.

Solomon pointing out the sights.

See those frogs standing under there?

See those frogs standing under there?

Conifers.

Conifers.

More conifers. They come in many colors and shapes.

More conifers. They come in many colors and shapes.

Longleaf pine.

Longleaf pine.

Alan Carmichael being inquisitive.

Alan Carmichael being inquisitive.

Love these snowball viburnam. My grandmother used to have these.

Love these snowball viburnum. My grandmother used to have these.

Flaming azaleas -- the kind that Gregory's Bald is famous for.

Flaming azaleas — the kind that Gregory’s Bald is famous for.

Wild geranium.

Wild geranium.

I was surprised to learn that this sculpture is by my friend, attorney Jim Paris. Solomon saw it when it was in Krutch Park as part of Dogwood Arts Festival's "Art in Public Places" program.

I was surprised to learn that this sculpture is by my friend, attorney Jim Parris. Solomon saw it when it was in Krutch Park as part of Dogwood Arts Festival’s “Art in Public Places” program.

This is wild ginger. Commonly, it is called "little brown jugs" -- for obvious reasons.

This is wild ginger. Commonly, it is called “little brown jugs” — for obvious reasons.

Here's what the foliage looks like.

Here’s what the foliage looks like.

I'll bet this arbor has filled in by now.

I’ll bet this arbor has filled in by now.

Another fountain.

Another fountain.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

Lawn at the bottom of the garden.

Lawn at the bottom of the garden.

Very cool piece.

Very cool piece.

Another nod to the horses who ended up at the bottom.

Another nod to the horses who ended up at the bottom.

More shoes and bits.

More shoes and other horse hardware.

On a more pleasant note, this cute frog was taking a reading break.

On a more pleasant note, this cute frog was taking a reading break.

I was trying to see what his book was.

I was trying to see what his book was.

Another fountain.

Another fountain.

Frog taking it easy.

Frog taking it easy.

Beautiful handrail.

Beautiful handrail.

This piece is called "Lott's Wife."

This piece is called “Lot’s Wife.”

"Man Washing His Hands."

“Man Washing His Hands.”

I loved these praying mantises.

I loved these praying mantises.

And this spider.

And this spider.

Two frogs.

Two frogs.

This plant is called a Flowering Solomon Seal. I can understand why he likes it!

This plant is called a Flowering Solomon Seal. I can understand why he likes it!

This one is called "Ecstasy."

This artwork is called “Ecstasy.”

I loved this one.

I loved this one.

We made it back up to the house where we were treated to wine and cheese.

We made it back up to the house where we were treated to wine and cheese.

Here's the view from there.

Here’s the view from there.

This piece called "Cathedral" is in the yard.

This piece that looks like a cathedral is in the yard.

Here's Andrea Cartwright. She and Solomon have been married for 16 years.

Here’s Andrea Cartwright. She and Solomon have been married for 16 years.

Aren't these beautiful?

Aren’t these beautiful?

Thanks a million to our generous hosts.

Thanks a million to our generous hosts.

 

 

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12 Responses to “God’s Answer to Our Prayers”

  1. Gay Lyons, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:09 pm said:

    Beautiful! Love the stacked stone fountains.

  2. Lauren Miller, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:17 pm said:

    What a beautiful place. I feel more at peace after scrolling through the photos, so I can only imagine how calming it must be to experience in person. And there are so many lovely components. I can’t decide which one I like best, but a few favorites might be the snowball viburnum, the dog sitting atop the fountain (and the real pups!), the stacked stone, praying mantises, the cathedral sculpture and all the old horseshoes. Oh, and the view!

  3. Ellen Robinson, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:18 pm said:

    A very special place indeed. Love these marvelous KMA patrons!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:33 pm said:

    Gay: I loved those, too! I can’t believe a busy doctor and researcher had time to do that. But he says he loves doing it.

    Lauren: It was very peaceful to be there. Highly recommend you and John go the next time he opens the garden up.

    Ellen: Indeed. KMA is lucky to have them!

  5. Jackie Wilson, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:48 pm said:

    Alan Solomon has created a beautiful space in Knoxville and is a driving force behind the exciting expansion of the Knoxville Botanical Garden. We are fortunate to have him in our town!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on August 1st, 2014 at 4:55 pm said:

    Oh, Jackie: You are so right!

  7. Tina Rolen, on August 1st, 2014 at 5:00 pm said:

    What a wonderful privilege-thanks for sharing with the rest of us. Now I shall go ponder my own yard with sadness. 🙂 The sculptures were the best. Well, that and the view.

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on August 1st, 2014 at 5:10 pm said:

    The good thing, Tina, is that as a downtown dweller, I don’t have a yard to ponder!

  9. Elaine Tomber, on August 1st, 2014 at 11:36 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing this absolutely beautiful, peaceful and happy place. Andrea actually did a yoga show on Channel 2 (PBS) many years ago, before most folks even knew what yoga was. She too was beautiful, peaceful and in a happy place….how magical for she and Dr. Alan to have created this little heaven on earth!

  10. cmmoxley, on August 2nd, 2014 at 1:03 am said:

    Elaine: You are right about Andrea! She is a sweet and peaceful person. It is just perfect that she and Alan are sharing this great landscape – and letting the rest of us enjoy it as well.

  11. Bryan Bailey, on January 15th, 2017 at 6:23 pm said:

    I’m so very proud of my brother (brother-in-law) Brent, who has worked for Dr Solomon for years, creating and keeping these beautiful gardens.
    The first job ever held by man was Adam, tending God’s garden in Eden. It was the noble purpose of Adam’s creation.

  12. James Inman, on February 11th, 2018 at 2:31 pm said:

    Just saw this place on PBS i have lived in knoxville all my life and never knew it was here…absolutly beautiful

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