A Story of Old Stone Homes in Tennessee

A Pennsylvanian by birth, I came to live in Eastern Tennessee in 2008. A job planted me there for about five years. Quite lovely country, I thought, but it’s a land of log cabins, not old stone homes. After exploring the countryside, I realized I was wrong.

Ramsey House was my first real experience with a stone home in a Southern state. Breathtaking, it reminded me of many federal-style homesteads I had toured back home. And rightly so. Its original owner, Pennsylvania-born and of Scots-Irish heritage, hired an English-born architect to design and build the house of locally sourced pink marble and grey limestone – most likely in keeping with manses in his home state. Everything I love about old stone homes – intricate interior woodwork, a big walk-in cooking hearth and cozy fireplaces and a grand winding staircase – you’ll find at Ramsey House. Even a ghost or two (wink)!

So I was sitting at my computer today, pondering what to write. And Tennessee, for some reason, popped to mind. I did a search and – boom – up popped two gorgeous old stone homes for sale. Minus some columns and an odd architectural detail or two, these homes would look right at home if nestled on a country back road in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Maryland.

Wills-Dickey Stone House, Kingsport, Tennessee
Two-foot-thick stone walls. Can you imagine? This graceful lady was built around 1790 by Jacob and Mary Wills in a portion of Tennessee that was once part of Virginia. A two-story limestone dwelling, this mansion sits on over an acre of riverfront property, boasts its own barn, a guest house and four fireplaces and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Inspiration for this home’s design? Jacob was born in Pennsylvania and no doubt learned the art of stone masontry in his home state.

The Peter Range Sr. House
Imagine living in a home built by a Revolutionary War soldier! Peter Range Sr., of German descent and born in New Jersey, moved to present-day Johnson City (lower Knob Creek), Tennessee, with his wife Elizabeth and first child in 1777. He built his first home, a two-story log home, in 1796. That primitive structure forms part of the full basement of the present-day, circa 1804  home, constructed of hand-cut blue limestone. It was built along with a grist mill (Twin Falls), which is now but a memory. The home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts four fireplaces, interior exposed-stone walls and original wide-planked wood flooring.

Grey Beauties of Vermont

Holy smokes, Vermont! We had no idea you laid claim to some of the prettiest old stone homes in the country. Check out these stunners — from old-fashioned farmhouses to Greek revival-style mansions. The dreamy grey stone is likely marble, mica schist or granite. These six beauties are all up for grabs. We couldn’t think of a better way to start a brand new life!

Real-Life Haunted Houses: Stone Homes That Will Spook You Senseless

It’s that time of year, the season when nights turn chilly, leaves change hues and our thoughts turn to harvest, the ethereal glow of carved pumpkins and things that go bump in the night. We couldn’t let October slip by without announcing a list of our favorite real-life haunted houses in the United States. (All stone, of course!)

Most Haunted House in Pennsylvania: Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford

The wayside stone tavern was constructed sometime during the 1760s by Robert Callender, a famed fur trader and scout for General George Washington. During its storied history, the structure served several purposes: as a fort, trading post, tavern and inn and private residence. Public hangings were also known to have occurred on the property. Stories of ghostly encounters were made public in the late 1950s by the Enyeart family, owners who discovered the remains of a Colonial-era man in the basement during a renovation. The remains of a second body were discovered in the 1980s, during a floor restoration project. Tavern guests and staff members have reported sightings of several apparitions, including a wagon master, a horse thief, an officer, a soldier and a forlorn young woman (some say the mistress of Callender, abandoned and forever morning the loss of her lover).

Most Haunted House in New York: Beardslee Castle, Little Falls


Constructed in 1860 by New York lawyer and legislator Augustus Beardslee, this stone castle, built atop the site of a circa-1700s fortified homestead, is heavily inspired by the design of ancient Irish castles. Now a wedding venue, the former family manse is said to be haunted by the ghosts of French and Indian War soldiers (and their victims), a woman named “Abigail”, who is dressed in white and awaiting a wedding she died the night before, and Pop Christensen, a former owner who, broken and weary from prolonged illness, hung himself in the building.

Most Haunted House in New Jersey: Olde Stone House, Washington Township

The oldest structure incorporated in the Olde Stone House Village, this circa-1730 Jersey brownstone home sits along Egg Harbor Road, an old stagecoach route to the shore. Originally home to early settlers in the Morgan family, the home is presently used as a wedding, party and meeting venue. Several paranormal research groups have investigated the home and the village over the years, and suggested that the site is haunted by the ghost of a little girl, whose giggle can be heard on rare occasions, and the ghost of a Civil War solider, who walks up and down the home’s interior staircase.

Most Haunted House in Maryland: Jonathan Hager House, Hagerstown


A young German immigrant eager for adventure, Jonathan Hager purchased 200 acres of land in what was then considered Maryland wilderness and built, in the 1740s, his German-style fieldstone home atop a freshwater spring. A noteworthy citizen for his efforts in settling the area (now known as Hagerstown), Hager was elected to the General Assembly at Annapolis in 1771 and 1773. His homestead, “Hager’s Fancy,” is now owned by the city of Hagerstown and open to the public. The home is believed to be haunted by former owners of the property, and visitors have reported seeing a man dressed in black who paces the porch as well as the sounds of footsteps and disembodied voices on the second floor.

Most Haunted House in Virginia: Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown


Construction of this elegant Classical Revival-style manor home began in 1794 and continued for three years. Built of locally quarried limestone, the manor was originally home to Revoluntionary War veteran Major Isaac Hite, Jr. (President James Madison’s brother-in-law), his wife and their children. In the early 1800s, the home was sold out of the family and, during the Civil War, was occupied several times. Today a National Trust Historic Site, Belle Grove serves as an educational center and remains a working farm. The plantation is said to be haunted by the ghost of Hetty Cooley, a former owner’s young wife who was murdered in the 1860s by a resentful servant. She is often spotted, dressed in white and moving silently as she relives the very last moments of her life at Belle Grove.

Old Stone Homes of Southern California

My sister and her husband are in the first phases of a new home search near their current digs in Laguna Niguel, California. A few weeks ago, she directed my attention to a certain Zillow listing. I assumed, at first, that I’d click the link to see another perfect-for-two townhome. But no. This was different. The property, surrounded by live oak and sage brush, was perfectly nestled in picturesque Trabuco Canyon. And right smack dab in the middle? A simply adorable circa-1907 cobblestone cottage.

“See! There are old stone homes in California,” she said. “You could move out West, be close to me and still live your dream!” I have to admit, the notion of old stone homes in California intrigued me: Was this home an anomaly or some sort of regional vernacular that to this point had escaped my notice.

I’ve always assumed that those who moved West in the mid to late 1800s constructed shelters of log, timber, sod brick or adobe. But a quick google images search surfaced pictures of stone ruins — a foundation here, walls there — mostly in the arid desert regions of California and Nevada. The story continued to unfold: Ranchers, gold and silver prospectors and then homesteaders staked their claims in the Southern California deserts and built their first homes with materials easily accessible to them. And that meant lots of rock. From what I could tell, homesteads were often destroyed by fire or slowly crumbled to dust, abandoned by prospectors who moved on to bigger and better things.

My sis was apparently on a roll. A few weeks later, she sent another Zillow listing, a plot of land in Modjeska Canyon. I couldn’t resist the note attached, “Would love to know the history … stone foundation, fireplace.” Game on!

I first reached out to the realtor, who knew only a legend shared by locals: Sometime during the 1960s, hippies living in the area started a fire that destroyed the homestead. Interesting, but who knows if it’s true. I next reached out to the Orange County Historical Society. History buff and Silverado Canyon resident Mike Boeck asserted that the remains sit on land that was once homesteaded by beekeeper Joseph Pleasants in the late 1800s. Could the stone walls and chimney be the remains of some early shelter? I love that theory! But archivist Chris Jepsen noted that Pleasants’ homestead was incorporated into the estate of famed actress Helen Modjeska in 1888. Clearly as curious as I, Jepsen took a closer look at deeds and tax records and found that in 1937 there was no home listed on the site. By 1939, one appeared. And it’s hard to say if the home was made entirely of stone or stone paired with timber, sourced in the Riparian forest that surrounds the site.  Regardless, the remains could easily be incorporated into a new build. An exciting prospect!

Thanks to my sis, I am now keeping a close eye on California real estate listings, hoping that a property pops up with terribly old stone ruins — and a wickedly interesting story to tell.

Nurturing a Family in an Old Stone Schoolhouse

Just this week, The Baltimore Sun published a story of one couple’s decades-long love affair with an old stone schoolhouse. The building, constructed in 1879 of locally quarried granite and originally coined Baltimore County Schoolhouse No. 3, was converted to a home in the 1940s and then used as an antiques store in the 1990s before the Brickner-Filipczaks took ownership. But now that the couple’s children are grown, they are ready to pass the home on to the next generation of “caretakers”.

Is the thought of living in an old stone schoolhouse your dream come true? Check out these other adorable properties on the market:

Old Stone Castles: Love at First Sight

There’s something so romantic about an old stone castle — the winding staircases, turrets and secrete passageways. And, of course, a ghost or two. Believe it or not, old stone castles do exist in the US — we’ve found several on the market! Take a look at this bunch and tell us which historic home you’d love to call your own!

Do Old Stone Homes Keep Their Cool?

old stone home, York, Pennsylvania

German vernacular stone home, circa 1824, York, Pennsylvania

We love to wax romantic about old stone homes and for good reason – they’re gorgeous! But in doing so we may sometimes perpetuate a big myth — that, thanks to those thick stone walls, old stone homes stay as cool as cucumbers on the hottest summer days.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but the truth depends in some circumstances on a home’s location and a scientific principle called thermal mass (building material’s ability to store heat).

An old stone home with very thick walls works well in a region of the country where temps fluctuate significantly from day to night. Think sunny Southwest. Here’s how it works:

The sun rises in the morning and its rays reach the earth, heating the outer layer of a home’s stone walls, which, in the a.m., are cool to the touch thanks to chilly night air. Because of stone’s density, heat seeps through the wall VERY slowly, so that by the time the sun sets, heat is just starting to reach the home’s cool interior. Bravo! That bit of warmth inside feels great when the night air turns chilly. When morning arrives and the sun rises again, interior warmth has dissipated, exterior walls are cool again and the process starts all over.

Old stone homes may be bad news in areas of the country where, during the summer, nighttime temps don’t drop dramatically and a cooling effect never occurs. Your home takes on the temperature of the surrounding environment and holds it — yikes — like a big ol’ bake oven! The solution comes in the form of insulation, placed somewhere inside the stones walls, energy efficient windows and an effective HVAC system.

Own an old stone home? Struggle to keep interior temps comfortable in the summer? Tell us your story!

Save an Old Stone Home

Now’s your chance to live the dream: buy an old stone home at a steal and renovate from inside out to suit your needs. These fixer-uppers require a few cans of paint and some elbow grease, for sure. But the return on investment? Priceless!

Audience participation requested: If you have a few moments, pick a home, click on the image to review the details and then tell us how you would bring your favorite stone treasure back to life.

old stone farmhouse for sale in Pipersville, Pennsylvania, fixer upper, as is home for sale

Stone farmhouse in Pipersville, PA, circa 1740


old stone home for sale in Asbury, NJ, fixer upper, as is home

Stone farmhouse in Asbury, NJ, circa 1780


old stone home for sale in Mason Texas

Old stone cottage with windmill in Mason, TX, circa 1900


stone cape cod, old stone home for sale, Melbourne, Kentucky

Stone cape cod in Melbourne, KY, circa 1875

Old Stone Home Restoration: Real-Life Stories

Today, we invite you to join us as we take a closer look at the rehabilitation of two charming stone homes. These touching stories of hard work and determination may serve as inspiration for your own dream project. Let’s step inside …

Stone Manse in Mystic

The first tale comes from The Day, a daily newspaper out of New London, Connecticut. Reporter Ann Baldelli tells the story of the Stone House, a circa-1825 granite home built by banker Elias Brown and later purchased by the Stanton brothers. Descendants of the Stantons have pulled resources to restore the grand home, left in ruins after a tragic fire in 1924.

By the time all’s said and done, family members will have spent $1.3 million on the renovation. Plans are to use the home and seven-acre property as a family vacation getaway as well as a source of income via VBRO rentals. Read more about Mystic’s Stone House here.

Country Getaway Not Far From NYC

The second story comes directly from the owner: New York City artist, floral designer and interior stylist Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo, who has chronicled the restoration of her old stone home, the Ella Speer house, via Instagram, twitter and her own blog. The home, located in Rockland County, New York, and built in 1936, has only had three owners, yet still required its share of troubleshooting and TLC. Dragoo’s imagery is simply stunning and she shares, step by step, her inspirations for each space via Pinterest pics, color palettes and fixtures. See the restoration of the #newoldstonehouse here.

Dreamy Stone Cottages

Dreaming of a tiny stone cottage befit for a fairy tale? The Cotswalds and Irish countryside don’t lay claim. We found some lovely little gems right here in the States! Take a peek and tell us which one fits your vision.

Park-Like Setting in Pennsylvania


Delta, Pennsylvania, is the location of the historic Ox Bow House, a circa-1800 stone cottage that was once part of the Castle Finn iron forge plantation. The fieldstone home is nestled on over 30 park-like acres of lush farmland and boasts a large walk-in fireplace and original slate roof. An added bonus: Muddy Creek cuts right through the property, offering the new owner opportunities for fishing, kayaking, gemstone panning and more.

Classic German Architecture in New Jersey

old stone cottage, Long Valley, New Jersey
Built in 1782, this cottage sits on a quiet lane in the colonial-era town of Long Valley, New Jersey. The town, founded by German immigrants and originally coined, “German Valley,” boasts fine examples of German colonial architecture (i.e. amazing old stone homes). This adorable cottage is surrounded by gardens and outbuildings and also boasts lovely wide-plank pine flooring.

Lovely “Luxe”-Style Cottage in Iowa

old stone cottage, Stone House Bakery, Bellevue, Iowa
We head to Iowa to see the third stone cottage, a circa-1875 structure that originally served as a boys’ school. The humble stone home is located in the village of St. Donatus, a farming community founded in 1846 by Luxembourg immigrants and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home is fashioned from locally sourced limestone and features white pine floors and 12-foot ceilings.