PropertyThe Overseer's House was built in 1889 at the corner now known as Chapel Road and Park Avenue in Bluff Park. It was the home of the person who managed the A. B. Howell Peach Orchard and farm, a commercial venture whose owner lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The orchard, begun in 1882, was on 560 acres of land surrounding the house. The property at one point stretched from Shades Crest Baptist Church to Sulphur Springs Road. The original house was three rooms and had a dirt floor. The original stone fireplace and chimney are still visible in the house in what is now the parlor. The original house was board and batten, and the old walls are contained within the thick walls that now surround the three original rooms. The massive hand-hewn timbers that formed the foundation of the original house are visible underneath the rooms.
OverseersThe first overseer of whom we have a record is William W. Morgan, who lived in the house with his wife Eliza Hale Morgan and their two boys. William and his family swapped houses with Sophronia Hale and her family and moved to Dadeville, Alabama. Both families left their furniture and livestock, taking only personal items with them.
A very famous overseer who lived in the house was William Hale, the son of George Gardner Hale and Sophronia Hale. The Hale family is one of the founding families of the Shades Mountain / Bluff Park area. The Hales are descendants of John Howland, the thirteenth signer of the Mayflower Compact. William Hale and his brother, Evan, were in charge of the Howell Orchard operation from 1889 until 1897. The three oldest children of William and Mary Elizabeth Hale were born in the Overseer's House. William Hale, as overseer, managed the cultivation of trees and the shipping of fruit in its season. The family also planted sweet potatoes and strawberries. Some of the stone terraces used in the farming of this land may still be seen on the property and in the yards of adjoining properties.
Area DevelopmentWilliam and Evan Hale prospered in the Bluff Park area, and they did much to develop the area. They owned and operated a saw mill, ice house, and cotton gin on what is now known as Valley Street, and sawmilled their own timber off land they owned to build houses. William built and lived in several of the present historic homes on Shades Crest Road, including 633 and 645. Around 1909 he built the mansion that is now 2136 Bluff Road, and known as Shangri-la.
House RenovationsThe house was occupied by John McGraw and his descendants from 1906 until 1980. During the early 1900s, the Overseer's House was expanded when the orchard property was sold off, and the house became strictly a residence. The roof was raised, and a kitchen and dining room were added. The evidence of this may be seen in the foundation joinings and in the way floor boards were added at different periods. When the roof was raised, the original stone chimney was not high enough, so a brick chimney was built above the stone chimney to extend it. This is why the chimney on the Chapel Road side of the house is half stone and half brick. A kitchen chimney was added, and it may still be seen on the house. A third chimney that serviced the front room and a bedroom was removed during renovations that took place prior to 1989.
The sandstone garden walls on the north and east sides of the house were built in the 1940s by a stone mason, Hanson Morgan. The house once sat on stone piers on these two sides of the house, but the space under the house and out to the top of the garden walls was filled in, probably in the 1940s or 50s when indoor plumbing was installed. A porch on the north side of the house was enclosed, adding another room to the house.
During renovations in the late 1980s, the ceilings of the house were lowered and an upstairs bedroom was added. During renovations in 1990, a wing housing a bedroom, bath, closets, hall, and carport was added. The well is still visible on the north side of the house.