Come for the history, stay for the hippopotamus

Madrigal singers from Webb School of Knoxville getting ready to perform during cocktail hour at the historic Craighead-Jackson House.

It has become one of our favorite holiday traditions to attend the annual Christmas fundraiser at Blount Mansion in downtown Knoxville. During this evening, guests get to see the handiwork of The Knoxville Garden Club, which decorates the historic home for the event.

The layout of Blount Mansion, which was built in 1792, practically guarantees that indoor fundraisers there will not include a program and speeches of any length because guests’ tables are spread through two rooms and it would be difficult to be heard in both spaces. But, by standing in the doorway between the two rooms, singers can entertain both groups. Thus: a delightful evening of great food (thanks, Northshore Brasserie), wine and Christmas carols. And NO speeches or videos. Yay. No wonder it was a fast sellout.

Blount Mansion, located at 200 W. Hill Ave., was built by William Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution who was the first (and only) territorial governor of the Southwest Territory. The Tennessee Constitution was largely drafted there in 1796. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This year, for the first time, another historic property located just to the east of Blount Mansion also was part of the festivities. The Craighead-Jackson House, is a two-story brick structure built in 1818 by Knoxville City Alderman John Craighead. Craighead also was an elder in nearby First Presbyterian Church and he is buried in the cemetery there.

Knoxville physician George Jackson bought the house in the late 1850s and, according to legend, the house today is haunted by the ghost of one of Jackson’s servants, who burned to death after her skirt caught fire while she was working in the house’s kitchen. As far as I know, she did not make her presence felt on the evening of our recent visit.

Blount Mansion board members Brian Pittman and Debby Schriver signaled for folks to gather for cocktails in the Craighead-Jackson House.

That’s where we ran into Susan and Mike Edwards, pictured here with Alan Carmichael, right. Mike retired this year as president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber.

Blackberry Farm sommelier Jason Drotar and Andrea Bailey of the Aslan Foundation.

The cocktail hour was in the parlor of the Craighead-Jackson House.

That’s where Stephanie Balest, owner of Northshore Brasserie, was passing prosciutto-wrapped dates.

Which drew rave reviews.

Martha Kern, right, and her daughter, Carrie Niceley, spearhead the decorating of Blount Mansion for this event.

Samma Bromley, president of the Garden Study Club, headed up the decor at the Craighead-Jackson House.

Some of the Garden Study Club’s handiwork.

And this.

More lovely seasonal decor. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

From left, Debby Schriver, Sara Phillips and Jim Grossen. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Soon, we were told to follow the madrigal singers and head over to Blount Mansion for the main event. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

It was a beautiful — and tuneful — gauntlet.

Blount Mansion. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Michael Jordan, development director for Blount Mansion, right, with Barry Lucas and Rebekah Roberts. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Kate and Kenzie Kilgore. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

A family affair! Darby Huddleston, right, with his parents, Chris and Jana Huddleston. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Dr. David and Judy Birdwell. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

From left, Megan Stair, Katharine Torbett, Anne Templeton, Russ Torbett and Caesar Stair. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Andrea Bailey and Jason Drotar, left, joined by Kim and Michael Bailey. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

Susan Schmid, left, with Samma Bromley. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

The tables were festive. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

The stunning centerpieces each featured a redbird. So sweet. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

This pear salad was delicious.

Short ribs on cheese grits were perfect for a chilly night.

And who could argue with this amazing dessert?

Time for Christmas carols!

April Hill and Brandon Gibson knocked it out of the park with their performance. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

As did Maurice Hendricks. (Photo by Vaiden Taylor.)

We were singing along at our table! Here are Neill Townsend and Tommy Schmid.

And then, this happened:


Happy holidays, everybody!


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

7 Responses to Come for the history, stay for the hippopotamus

  1. Tina Knight, on December 17th, 2019 at 2:12 pm said:

    Evie Andrus is a great entertainer. I see her fiddle on the floor in the shot, which is my favorite of all the instruments she plays.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on December 17th, 2019 at 2:51 pm said:

    Tina: Thanks! I was having trouble finding her name. She was a blast!

  3. Monique, on December 17th, 2019 at 4:41 pm said:

    Looks like holiday fun

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on December 17th, 2019 at 5:14 pm said:

    Monique: It was just a wonderful night. You and Bruce should join us next year!

  5. Gay Lyons, on December 18th, 2019 at 12:46 pm said:

    Blount Mansion is such a treasure. The holiday decor is perfect.

  6. Dorothy Stair, on December 18th, 2019 at 7:21 pm said:

    Thank you for a a beautiful Blue Streak on the Blount Mansion Christmas party. The Craighead Jackson House and the Blount Mansion are the two houses that remain from the original grid of Knoxville laid out by James White. State Street used to end on Front Street that ran along the river.

    It is wonderful to see both houses full of light and people.

    Merry Christmas and thank you again, Dorothy

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on December 18th, 2019 at 10:12 pm said:

    Gay: You are so right!

    Dorothy: You are a huge part of why these treasures are in the great shape they are in today. Thank you so much for all you have done and continue to do.

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