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UPDATED: Historic home destroyed by fire

The smoldering and ice-covered remains of an antebellum home on Old Natchez Trace still burn Wednesday morning after a midnight blaze swept through the residence. Kerri Bartlett
During the midnight hour Wednesday morning, the historic Fairmount home, located on 15 acres at 2163 Old Natchez Trace in Old Town, became engulfed in flames firefighters could not contain. 

The classic Greek-Revival antebellum home continued to burn into mid-day, leaving only three brick chimneys and two columns of the original residence as evidence of the loss.
Previous owner Everett Covington passed away last May when his adult children Lucy and Steve Covington and Margie Encke inherited the landmark. He bought the historic place in 1965 with his wife.

Mr. Covington, who died last summer, purchased the home with his wife Jeanne in 1965. One time president of Security Federal Savings and Loan, he was a longtime member of Bethlehem United Methodist Church. He also served on the board of the Harpeth Valley Utility District.

“It’s like seeing your past go up in flames. It reminds you to live in the now,” his adult daughter Lucy said as she stood in frigid temperatures witnessing the devastation to her family home.

She moved to the Old Town while still in high school, and said Wednesday the support of longtime friends and neighbors brought her comfort.

The home was filled with early American antiques from her father’s estate, which had not yet been settled.

The cause of the fire had not been determined, but Lt. Chris Phelps, Williamson County Rescue Squad, said early indications point to an accidental incident.

“It seemed to have started in the walls,” Lucy said.

The Covington property also includes a separate cabin-like home, which the family leases. A renovated white barn also serves as another residence.

Phelps said the Rescue Squad was dispatched just after midnight, with firefighters responding from several stations from Grassland to Fairview and Downtown Franklin to Thompson Station.

The temperature was between zero and five degrees, Phelps said.

The American Red Cross, Williamson Medical Center’s EMS, Williamson County Sheriff’s Department and Middle Tennessee Electric crews were also on the scene.

“We were initially met with heavy smoke conditions and because of the weather the smoke had banked down and you couldn’t see the home from the roadway.”

Phelps said when firefighters realized an individual was trying to, but the squad members quickly asked him to evacuate the burning house.

As firefighters began to try to contain the blaze from the seat of the fire, they quickly learned “it had already spread inside the walls and was in void spaces and hid from plain view.”

“The fire had extended throughout the walls and into the attic,” Phelps said. “At that time, all the people, all the water and all the hoses could not put out the BTUs it was putting out. We changed from an offensive mode…to a defensive attack to mitigate the risk of collapse.”

Phelps said at some point firefighters must assess risk versus benefit.

“We will do a fire report; however, there was nothing we believe to be suspicious.”
“It was brutally cold,” Phelps confirmed, adding that crews rotated throughout the night.
Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin/Williamson County lamented the Covington’s personal and historical loss.

“The loss of a historic home is always a tragedy,” Pearce said. “The two biggest threats are demolition and fire.”

Several years ago, the foundation prepared the nomination materials for the house to be placed on the National Register of Historic Properties.”

The original property owner, Stokely Davis House, built the home in 1850, and later sold it to John H. Hill. It became known as “Harpeth Home” and stayed in the Hill family for decades. The Covington’s acquired it in the mid-1960s.
—Pam Horne contributed to this story.

Posted on: 1/30/2014


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