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Historic Butler Mansion reaches milestone

By Karla Prudhomme
Freelance Writer

Johnson County has many beautiful and historic homes, but Mountain City’s jewel is the exquisite Butler Mansion. Noted military leader and politician Colonel Roderick R. Butler had the house built to accommodate his career and political ambitions and his large family that included eleven children.
The Butler House, as it was originally referred to, was made of brick and designed in the imposing Italianate architectural style. According to family records, the foundation was dug in 1859. However, the house was not completed until circa 1871. All the bricks needed for building the house were fired there on the property. The grand house was not common in the Civil War era; however, Colonel Butler married Emeline Jane Donnelly shortly after moving to the area, and she was the daughter of a wealthy Taylorsville farmer who desired his daughter to live in a manner in which she was accustomed.
The grand foyer is complete with a unique Y-shaped staircase that splits at mid-point, leading either to the front or the backset of upstairs rooms. A double parlor on the north side of the main floor whose doors can be opened to create one large gathering room or Ballroom, an L-wing porch complete with an outside staircase, and an enviable library confirmed Roderick’s hard-earned status.
The house’s most unique exterior architectural features are the pedimented canopies sheltering the three second-story balconies- one on the center front and two on the south side.
Having been bound out as a tailor’s apprentice at age thirteen, Roderick was determined to study law and make something of himself, so he did just that at age twenty-one. He was admitted to the bar in 1853, practiced law in both Johnson and Carter County, and was appointed Postmaster of Taylorsville by President Millard Fillmore.
Roderick was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1859- the same year, the foundation for his home, ‘The Butler House,’ was laid. Having a long and successful career in politics, Roderick and Emeline Jane, his wife, filled the glorious house with eleven children.
The Butler House stayed in the Butler family until the early 1990s when it was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Bill Trathen. The magnificent house has gone through extensive renovations over the years, with the last major renovation being undertaken by the Trathens.
Care was taken to maintain the home’s original design with each renovation. The Butler House has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973 and continues to be a draw for tourists and a treasure to locals.