published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Watts bar home built with salvaged materials from Chattanooga landmarks

The Starks had their kitchen hood hand carved while using historical and repurposed materials while building their Lake Front Estates residence near Spring City, Tenn.
The Starks had their kitchen hood hand carved while using historical and repurposed materials while building their Lake Front Estates residence near Spring City, Tenn.
Photo by Dan Henry.


The Starks will open their home to visitors 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Visitors are asked to bring donations for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank. From Chattanooga: Take Highway 27 north through Dayton to Highway 68. Turn right toward Watts Bar Dam. Go two miles and turn left onto Wolf Creek Road. Go two miles to a stop sign and turn right onto Pin Hook Road. Follow signs to Lakefront Estates on left. Go through the gates. At the top of the hill, drive around the gazebo, keeping left. After about 100 yards, turn left at Lake Harbor Drive. House is the second on the right.

Lloyd and Lynn Starks turned a dream into a reality with their recent move into a home on the Watts Bar Reservoir near Spring City, Tenn. The couple, who also have a home in Dalton, Ga., had vacationed for nearly 30 years in the area, camping with their now-grown sons.

The Starks were involved in every aspect of the construction of the spacious, rustic home in Lakefront Estates. From the floor plan to light fixtures, the house is a reflection of their personalities and their interest in history, particularly Chattanooga's.

Much of the wood used in the 5,300-square-feet home are walking timbers from the Walnut Street Bridge, salvaged during a routine replacement project in the fall of 2010.

"Lynn and I were riding bikes in the Chattanooga area when we saw workers taking timbers up from the bridge," Mr. Starks said.

"I got the contractor information and called my builder and told him to see if he could buy 500 timbers to use in our house. He bought them all," he said, noting that there were considerably more than 500. "That's his specialty. He builds houses from reclaimed wood."

The builder, Mark Whitlock, owner of Miracle Properties in Ten Mile, Tenn., said he uses mostly reclaimed/repurposed wood in the homes he builds.

"I buy antique timbers. The patina in the wood is something you can't reproduce," Whitlock said.

The timbers from the bridge are used mostly in the ceilings inside the home, the front porch and screened-in deck.

"A whole lot of prayer went into this house while it was being built," Lynn Starks said. "Especially when workers were hoisting the heavy Walnut Street timbers up to the high cathedral ceilings."

"But, thankfully, nobody got hurt," her husband said.

Many of the timbers had once held solid brass plaques inscribed with names of donors who contributed to the restoration of the bridge in the early 1990s. Over the years, most of the plaques were stolen, reportedly as a result of rising metal prices.

The Starks have begun replacing the plaques with ones of their own. Each documents monumental events in the family, such as dates of weddings, birthdays, deaths and memorable vacations.

Other Chattanooga-area

mementos include gooseneck metal light fixtures from Standard Coosa Thatcher (in the Highland Park area), wooden floor planks from the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant (now the location of Volkswagen) in Tyner, gas lanterns from the Lamplighter Restaurant, lamps from Warehouse Row and items from the former Patten Hotel on 11th Street (now Patten Towers).

A large wooden church pew purchased in Chatsworth, Ga., sits in the foyer. A stained-glass window salvaged from a torn-down church in downtown Chattanooga is placed above the front door. The Starks added a stained-glass plaque to the window with a favorite Bible verse, Joshua 24:15.

The historical aspect of the house is only part of the home's charm. The cozy atmosphere extends from room to room in the two-story house, a showcase of the couple's taste in furnishings combined with the talents of the builder.

With five bedrooms and 41/2 baths, the house easily accommodates their frequent weekend guests -- their three sons, three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.

Because they built the house "out of scratch," Mr. Starks said, they had their family in mind in every aspect of the design. Fortunately, he said, the builder was open-minded and a "genius" at what he does for a living, Mr. Starks said.

"Mark is a visionary. All his houses are unique. He's wonderful that he listens to what you want, and his creations are beyond measure," he said.

Some details, such as using goat wire on the railing of an outdoor breezeway linking the house to the garage, may seem small initially but are of great value in reality. The goat wire allows a clear view of the lake from the walkway.

The railing on the stairwell from the main floor to the lower level is carved from mountain laurel and handcrafted by a father/son team from Ten Mile, Tenn.

The hand-hewn, wood-pegged mantel in the living room was made by the Amish in Pennsylvania.

"It's big enough to hold our 14 stockings," Mrs. Starks said.

The wires from the TV mounted above the mantel are cleverly hidden in an old Motorola cabinet that sits on the floor beside the fireplace. Stones for the fireplace came from the Crossville, Tenn., area, the builder said.

"Anybody can build a sheet-rock house," Whitlock said. "We build houses that have a history. In fact, a lot of the wood in this house would typically have been bulldozed over and thrown away. It's perfectly good wood that has withstood the test of time. There's no need to throw it away."

Most every nook and cranny in the house is utilized with built-in shelves, cabinets or tables, individually handcrafted for each space. Even the doors were handmade from scraps of lumber used elsewhere in the house. Repurposed arched shutters were transformed into a headboard for one of the beds.

Mr. Starks, president of Chemco Inc., is a technology development consultant for NASA, which entails commercializing products invented at NASA for use by the general public, he said. He works mostly from his new home office on the lower level of the house.

"My office is also my man cave," he said, noting that it's located next to his woodworking shop. An accomplished woodworker, Mr. Starks said making furniture has been a lifelong hobby. One of his handmade dining room tables sits on the screened-in porch. Two downstairs bedroom will feature individual bunks for the grandchildren as well as a combined media area and Jack and Jill bathrooms.

Building the house was a team effort, Mr. Starks said, noting that it took 10 months to complete.

The distressed and glazed handmade cabinets in the kitchen were also handcrafted, and the large hood over the gas stove was hand-carved.

Because the home is filled with local history, the Starks are inviting the public to an open house Sunday afternoon. They ask that all who visit bring a donation of canned meats, green peas or dried pasta to be donated to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which also serves clients in Rhea and Meigs counties.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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shawntheweaver said...

I really like this kitchen design, some people like modern/contemporary style with a strong minimalist influence. I like the French style when it’s all about the rustic, country look. I like a room to feel cozy and intimate. Shawn -

December 11, 2012 at 8:45 a.m.
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