When Mr. and Mrs. Brooks were ready to build a home on their new property just after World War II (around 1949), they met with local architect Allen Dryden, Sr. During their initial consultation with Mr. Dryden, Mrs. Brooks expressed that she simply wanted “a farm house with a picket fence.”
Upon hearing these words, and with the understanding that the Brooks’ were hard-working, “salt-of-the-earth” people, Mr. Dryden then envisioned a quaint cottage bordered by a white picket fence. As all good architects would do, however, he was certain to ask what else they’d like their farm house to have. They answered with just two additional details:
Mrs. Brooks admitted that she’d very much like to see high ceilings in her new home – at least 12 feet high.
Mr. Brooks then acknowledged that he’d very much prefer his new home to have plenty of fireplaces.
So much for the “quaint cottage!” Allandale as we know it today (which has since been dubbed the “White House of Kingsport”) was built instead. The name of the house is derived from Allan, a reference to Roan Allan F-38 (a leading Tennessee Walking horse), and the old English word dale, meaning peaceful valley.
Allandale, as designed by Mr. Dryden, is a modern adaptation of an antebellum mansion – a classic example of Georgian Architecture. In accordance with this pattern, all the main rooms lead off of the central hallways. Among the other traditional details incorporated in the house are the four chimneys (with corresponding formal fireplaces in the main rooms), a “hipped” (self-bracing) roof, and a grand wooden staircase which dominates the entry hall. In addition, four hand-carved cypress columns adorn the front portico, and share an unusual origin with the staircase.
During a visit to Knoxville, Mr. and Mrs. Brooks discovered the old C.B. Atkins residence (an authentic antebellum mansion) and became most enamored with its unusual columns and stairway. Though their Allandale was not yet even on the drawing board at the time, they gladly purchased the pieces, then set about transporting the massive set.
After Mr. Brooks received special permission from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the columns (which measure 25 feet across) and the curving staircase were successfully shipped 100+ miles from Knoxville…over roads that were only two-lane highways at that time. They were then stored in a tin enclosure for two years until the Brooks’ house was built to display them.
Fine furnishings were collected from around the world to enhance their new home, including choice oriental rugs and priceless antiques. It seemed that no expense was spared to adorn the home with period pieces from England, France, Germany, Italy, and far-flung regions of the United States.
Mr. Brooks was devoted to the interests of Kingsport, and worked in countless ways to make it a better place in which to live. For example, as a predecessor to his gift of Allandale to the City of Kingsport, he donated no less than 100 acres of the property next to his house to the state of Tennessee for a University Center in honor of his first wife in 1962.
Upon his death in 1969, Mr. Brooks left his exquisite home [including many of its furnishings], several outbuildings, and 25 acres [featuring two man-made ponds] to the City of Kingsport. The board of mayor and aldermen were given one year to determine whether or not to accept his gift, which came with two primary provisions: the house must be maintained in the same manner as when its former owners were alive, and it must be devoted to public use.
Had the city turned the gift down, the property would have reverted back to the Brooks’ heirs, and the citizens of Kingsport would have lost one of its greatest public landmarks. In 1970, Kingsport’s Mayor Fred Gillette and the Board of Aldermen made what proved to be a wise decision indeed: to accept the Allandale property, and to agree to abide by the terms of his will. Though it had great potential benefit to the people of Kingsport, Allandale was not opened as we know it today until some 13 years later, thanks in large part to the dedicated efforts of then-Alderman William R. Garwood.
Mr. Garwood understood the possible service such a property could provide the citizens of Kingsport, and successfully campaigned his fellow aldermen to finally open Allandale for its intended public use. A director was hired, and volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure that the first floor was redecorated and adequately prepared for its first guests since the City of Kingsport became the owner. In May 1983, an “open house” was hosted by Mayor Norman Spencer and aldermen Richard Watterson, Thomas Todd, Mary Cunningham, Alan Hubbard, George Ainslie, and Bill Garwood to officially mark the commencement of Allandale Mansion’s public life.
However, it was not long before it became evident that additional support would be needed to help keep the property maintained, and in 1989, the “Friends of Allandale” association was established to provide for this need. Since then, the they have made improvements and renovations to the property totaling more than $550,000, and have raised an additional $325,000 through in-kind gifts and services. The Friends have accomplished some remarkable objectives in order to keep the home in a fashion the Brooks family would have approved of.
Mr. Brooks had a charitable penchant for inviting visitors [such as the Boy Scouts, kindergarten classes, and church groups] out to tour his farm. This kind tradition is carried on today in his philanthropic memory as many use Allandale’s facilities for a wide variety of social, civic, and private events.