Something peachy and piggy at Cottonwood

In North Knoxville is a beautiful historic home called Cottonwood. Built between 1894 and 1897 by botanist Nathan Wesley Hale and his wife, Laura Adelaide Sebastian, it sat at the time on 300 acres that the Hales dedicated to the cultivation of peaches. According to Knox Heritage, Nathan Hale’s orchards were such a success that there even is a peach, the Hale Peach, named in his honor.

Historic Cottonwood is located at 3212 Washington Pike. It was the scene last month of a fantastic Knox Heritage Summer Supper.

Later in its history, in 1930, Louis M. Lay of the well-known Knoxville meat packing company Lay’s Meats, purchased the property. The company, in its heyday, was recognized by many by its advertising logo featuring “the three little pigs.” The Lay’s Meats founder owned the home and land until 1959.

Unfortunately, after the Lay family sold the estate, it fell into disrepair to the point that many felt it would be demolished. But in 2006, it was purchased again. This time by Stewart Lusk and Greg Merritt who have worked tirelessly over the past 13 years to restore it to its original grandeur.

So it was appropriate that Cottonwood would be the location last month of one of Knox Heritage’s delightful “Summer Suppers” and the theme would include both peaches and “piggies.” Although tickets cost $150 per person, the event quickly sold out and the hosts generously agreed to double the number of guests allowed to purchase tickets. It then quickly sold out again!

The setting in the backyard for the dinner was stunning.

But first, one of the owners, Stewart Lusk, welcomed everyone to the historic home.

Here’s the other owner, Greg Merritt, with his friend Libby Beidelschies.

Volunteers Lucille Griffo, left, and Rosa Mar were checking guests in.

At the bar, Tom Traylor was serving up “Cottonwood Peach Tea Cocktails.” Here’s what they contained: Sugarland Peach Moonshine, peach schnapps, mint simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and peach tea. Delish!

Emily and Jerry Lenn checking in on the front porch.

Bert and Rusha Sams in the check-in area.

Alan Carmichael with one of those signature drinks.

Inside, City Councilwoman Lauren Rider, a host for the evening, was passing rumaki, which is water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. There’s the “piggy” part of the menu.

Yep. Very tasty.

Gayle Burnett passing out another excellent nibble during cocktails.

Smoked salmon on potato cakes were on her tray.

Patricia Taylor, left, and Rachelle Joy exploring the house.

From left, Larry and Kay Leibowitz with host Sara Martin. (The folks wearing Knox Heritage aprons are on the host committee.)

Robin Smith, left, and Debbie Emery are like Alan and me. They love combining their support for a good cause with a good party!

Two fun guys: Bobby Brown, left, and Todd Richesin.

Maybe you’d like a look at some of the rooms.

Here’s a group enjoying cocktails in the living room.

The dining room is charming.

The den is very masculine.

Something I could have done without seeing.


Master bedroom.

Guest room.

No entry! It was Michael Thomas’ job to keep folks from going up to private areas on the third floor. Nobody challenged him!

Meanwhile, back at the party. . .

Some folks gathered around the pool. From left, Chad Tindell, Melissa Charles and Emily Lenn.

That’s where this interesting sculpture is located.

Bill Charles was staffing the bar in the backyard. Here he demonstrates that he is equipped with my favorite pinot grigio! I mean, who can resist a label featuring a fish wearing sunglasses?

Here’s a closeup of the gorgeous tablescapes. This design is the handiwork of Craig Naill.

Folks adored the centerpieces.

And the music. Downtown Bigfoot was a perfect choice. Band members are Charlie Valentine on drums, Curtis Tipton on keyboards and Tim Morris on bass guitar.

Guests Susan and Tony Koontz, left, with Janet Bower in the backyard.

Wes Goddard, left, and Randall DeFord.

Mike and Kendall Keller.

Mark and Cathy Hill looking adorable in their matching ensembles!

Pandy Anderson, left, and Victoria Daniel-Cape.

Grant Riley and Johnna Easter.

Just before dinnertime, I stuck my head in the kitchen and found Dana Traylor stirring peaches. A lot of them!

Melissa and Chad Tindell were playing with fire! (Actually, they were putting the finishing touches on the creme brulee we’d have for dessert.)

Outside, homeowners Stewart Lusk, left, and Greg Merritt were giving a brief history of Cottonwood.

Here’s a picture of the double sell-out crowd.

Paul Hotsinpiller bringing the delicious first course — fresh tomato gazpacho.

Very clever putting the Knox Heritage initials in the dish!

Second course was a refreshing mixed greens and kale salad.

The buffet included beef tenderloin, herbed shrimp, potato gratin, marinated asparagus and yeast rolls.

Here’s that creme brulee with candied peaches.

Cottonwood from the back.

A tip of the hat to the event’s co-chairs, Melissa and Bill Charles and Dana and Tom Traylor. It was a wonderful evening.


Filed under: Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Something peachy and piggy at Cottonwood

  1. Monique Anderson, on July 10th, 2019 at 11:17 am said:

    Looks like a wonderful supper event. I regret that Bruce and I didn’t get around to signing up for any of these this year.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on July 10th, 2019 at 11:45 am said:

    Monique: I will remind myself to remind you next year!

  3. Chad, on July 10th, 2019 at 1:08 pm said:

    Not all of the suppers have sold out. Check with Hollie at the KH office and she can tell you what’s available. Tickets remain to some great events (History of Knoxville Immigration at Laurel Theater, Party at Williams Creek to name two).

  4. Rusha Sams, on July 10th, 2019 at 2:10 pm said:

    One fabulous dinner! Loved the tour of this historic home that has been renovated beautifully and tastefully. Dinner was tres magnifique: gourmet food with a Southern touch. And the owners? Also delightful and passionate about historic preservation. Thanks, Knox Heritage, for doubling the number of guests — we’re so glad we could attend!

  5. Monique Anderson, on July 10th, 2019 at 4:14 pm said:

    Cynthia: That would be great. We do love them.

  6. Lauren Rider, on July 10th, 2019 at 4:29 pm said:

    Great first pic of the house! So beautiful and loved getting the chance to visit for the evening!

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on July 10th, 2019 at 4:36 pm said:

    Chad: Good point. Still some good ones left!

    Rusha: Agree with you all the way. Such fun seeing you and Bert.

    Lauren: Thanks for making it the fun evening it turned out to be!

  8. Georgiana Vines, on July 11th, 2019 at 2:06 am said:

    It’s not often I that I wish to be back in Knoxville when I’m in Inverness, Calif., enjoying the 60-degree weather in The summer. But this is definitely one time when I would have liked to have been in Knoxville to enjoy this evening and new experience.

  9. Sarah Frazier, on July 11th, 2019 at 3:33 pm said:

    Is Knox Heritage aware that Ted Lay, who grew up in that house, is still living in Ritta at age 94? He’s very spry and would have made an honored guest!

  10. Cynthia Moxley, on July 11th, 2019 at 3:38 pm said:

    Georgiana: Well, it was fun for sure. But I’m sure you made the right choice.

    Sarah: Well, I guess they know now!

  11. Ann, on July 23rd, 2019 at 7:40 pm said:

    What a beautiful home

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