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Cabins to ‘Discover’ new home at park

Cabins to ‘Discover’ new home at park
Cabins to ‘Discover’ new home at park | Discovery Park of America

Special Features Editor
Kenton was still “home” to the late Tom Wade, even after he and his wife, Pat, moved into a house in Union City and raised their son, Will, and their daughters, Lolly and Patti, in the neighboring town.
Having grown up in Kenton, Wade maintained the family’s extensive agricultural interests there and even wrote a book, “My Family, My Friends and Me,” that provided loving and loyal insight into the community of which he was so proud.
A little more than 30 years ago, Wade acquired property that had been know as the “Carroll woods lot” and, later, the “Lumpkin farm” on West College Street in Kenton, just across the road and half a block away from the former Kenton School.
The real estate not only boasted a beautiful tree-shaded front yard that would have shamed the size of some city blocks, but it included additional acreage to the rear of the property, plus some farm buildings.
And in the middle of it all was a large restored log cabin and a smaller log cabin “out-building.”
The features had been purchased, dismantled, moved to the site and put together again by the late Mark and Margaret (Smith) Lumpkin, who had previously owned a larger, two-story, turn-of-the-century home set further back on the property.
After Mrs. Lumpkin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and when mobility became an issue for her, the couple decided to indulge their love of history and create an appropriate setting for many of the lovely antiques they had collected by placing them in a home that would afford easier movement and more “involvement” in the community for Mrs. Lumpkin.
In the early 1970s they completed and moved into their very own log cabin, which featured some unique refinements.
Originally built as a typical two-room dog-trot style dwelling, the cabin lost some of its authenticity but gained some refinements that were important to the Lumpkins in the process. The most obvious, and the most enjoyable to Mrs. Lumpkin, was the move to enclose the dog-trot — which would have provided ventilation, separation of living areas and outdoor comfort for the inhabitants of the original dwelling — and turn that area into a living room. The new back wall featured a gas-burning fireplace with a unique marble back-piece positioned just above the mantle that the couple located at a quarry in East Tennessee. On the back side of the fireplace wall, they added a rear entrance to the cabin and it was in that entry way that they “disguised” the more modern elements of the home such as the washer and drier and a deep freeze.
The north-facing front wall that was installed to seal up the dog trot featured a decidedly modern glass enclosure that opened wide, by means of sliding glass doors, onto a typical log cabin-style porch. The glass was not in keeping with the original style of the home, but it was vital to the pleasure of the owners. As it became more and more difficult for Mrs. Lumpkin to walk, she found it necessary to retire from her job as a third-grade teacher at the former Kenton School. It was a job she had cherished for years. She would go on to teach for a short time at the former Cloverdale School in Obion County, but, increasingly, she spent her time in a recliner positioned in front of the wall of glass of one side and the fireplace to chase the chill of winter on the other.
From the chair, she could see the school clearly and could still feel a part of the activities taking place there as she watched students she had shepherded through their elementary years drive their own cars and trucks onto the school parking lot as high-schoolers and their younger siblings begin their own educational adventures.
Many of those young people and children would stop by the log cabin and visit with “Miss Margaret” and “Mr. Mark” on their way to and from school or would utilize the broad expanse of front yard to indulge in a variety of childhood games, with the Lumpkins cheering them on.
The original cabin was also enlarged by the addition of a former one-room school house that was tacked on to the east end of the dwelling and by a much smaller addition on the southwest corner. At one time, Mrs. Lumpkin’s mother, the late Creeda Smith, made her home with the couple and put her own unique style on the western side of the dwelling. She would also take up brief residence in the much smaller “out building” just west of the main house. It boasted just enough room for her to feel at home.
Mark Lumpkin made sure rose bushes twined the rough posts of the cabin’s front porch and he hung wooden swings from tall branches in the front yard. Unique bird feeders and squirrel food stations also dotted the yard and afforded the couple many hours of pleasure as they watched these friends come and go.
Family gatherings, school parties and celebrations and a variety of other social events took place in the cabin and spread out onto the lawn during the years the couple lived there.
When Wade, a longtime family friend whose connections went back a couple of generations, acquired the property in the early 1980s, he and the Lumpkins signed a unique agreement. It gave the couple the privilege of living in the home throughout their lifetime.
Mrs. Lumpkin died Aug. 17, 1996, still relishing the joys of the home the couple had created. Her husband spent the last few months of his life in a nursing home in Dyer, passing away Feb. 2, 2004.
Recent changes
While Wade had originally envisioned some day making the cabin the Kenton address for his extensive agri-business interests, by the time the Lumpkins no longer needed the home, he had already refurbished his own ancestral dwelling in Kenton, in the mid-1990s, for that purpose.
For a time, Wade and his son and business partner, Will Wade of Union City, rented the log cabin property.
More recently however, the Wade family has decided that the unique building might be destined for a higher purpose.
“It’s a beautiful property and it’s too neat and special to let it fall down,” Will Wade said recently as he and his mother visited the site. “We have decided the best way to ensure that it will be around for generations to come is to allow it to become part of Discovery Park of America.”
The family recently finalized plans to donate both log cabins to the multi-million dollar project currently under construction in Union City’s northwest quadrant between Everett Boulevard and I-69. The structures will be moved to the site over the next few months and will be utilized as three separate entities, according to plans currently on the drawing board for the project.
The large cabin will be broken down into its original components and the east-end former one-room school will, most likely, see new service as a “loom cabin” on the grounds at DPA.
The dog-trot cabin will have its roofline reframed to restore it to its original silhouette and the west-end addition will be removed, if plans develop in line with current thinking. The fireplace and glass wall will be removed and fire places in each wing of the cabin will be restored to their original appearance so that the cabin reflects its true origin and purpose.
Visitors to DPA, when it opens next year, will most likely see many of the local artifacts related to typical home life that have been on display at the Obion County Museum featured in the cabin. The current Obion County Museum board will be in charge of restoring the cabin and deciding exactly what will be on display there, according to plans on the drawing board at this time.
The three buildings that result from the move will most likely be laid out on a trajectory from the equipment barn, which is already in place at DPA, toward Discovery Center, which is under construction as the centerpiece of the 50-acre site.
“Discovery Park of America is so grateful to receive this priceless donation from the Wade family and the Kenton community. We look forward to restoring this piece of Tennessee history for generations to come,” says Rob Kingrey, exhibits manager for Discovery Park of America.
“It was not an easy decision to move this Kenton landmark from the site where people have enjoyed seeing it for so long, but our overriding concern is to protect it for future generations and to utilize it to expand knowledge of our local history,” the Wades say.
The decision is one Tom Wade and the Lumpkins would, no doubt, have applauded.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at

Published in The Messenger 5.18.12

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