Friday, February 10, 2012

Jeff McCarn's House

by Debie Oeser Cox 

Today I was reminded of an old house, that I had long ago been curious about, by a facebook friend. She posted a photo of the house, which is located on McCarn Street near Porter Road. It got me wondering.

I first became aware of the big house at 808 McCarn Street in 1973, when Jimmy and I bought our first house a few doors away at 814 McCarn Street. The house was big and made of stone and looked very old to me. We had a neighbor lady who had grown up in the area. She said the house had belonged to Jefferson McCarn. She told me that when she was a child, the front lawn of the house sloped down the hill all the way to Porter Road, with no houses between to block the view. I suppose it was she who told me there had been a much older house on the property that had burned and the present house was built on the foundation of the old one. I already knew a little about Jeff McCarn. He was the was chief prosecutor in the murder trial of Edward Carmack, who was killed in 1908, by Duncan and Robin Cooper. McCarn was born in Arkansas in 1862. He moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University and received a law degree from Vanderbilt in 1894. He married Mary D. Allison, daughter of Judge Andrew Allison of Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 9, 1895. McCarn began his law practice in Nashville in 1894. In 1908 he was appointed district attorney general of Davidson County. He was appointed United States District Attorney for the Territory of Hawaii in 1913. He and wife Mary were parents to Cornelia, Andrew and Mary McCarn.

I worked briefly on a local survey of historic properties and learned to how to use architectural guide books to help determine the age of a building. The neoclassical style of the house and the cast stone building material are the primary clues that it was built in the early 20th century. A deed search shows that Jeff McCarn and his wife Mary bought the house in October of 1921.

Robert Powers purchased the property in 1913 from George Waters and his wife Betty and in 1914 Powers subdivided the tract into 57 lots, most being about 50 feet wide but of varying lengths. The boundaries of the tract were Porter Road on the west, Waters Ave. to the north, Riverside Drive to the east and Tillman Avenue to the south. One lot, much large than the others, was labeled the residence lot. It fronted on the street now called McCarn, 150 feet and ran back 377 feet to Washington Ave.

Powers sold the "residence lot" about the same time he subdivided the property to Mrs. Mollie Campbell and her husband H. Taylor Campbell for the sum of $11,250.00. The proposed street running in front of the residence lot was name Campbell Ave. by Powers. The house was too far out of the city limits to show up in early city directories. Once it does show up, with the Campbells' living there, in 1914, it is listed simply as being on Porter Rd se {southeast} corner Waters Av. The house is not listed at all in 1915 and the Campbells' are listed as living on Villa Place. This may have been the year the old house burned. The house is once again listed in 1916 and the Campbells have returned. In 1920 Mrs.Campbell sold the residence lot to Mrs. Lillie Omohundro for $14,500.00. Mrs.Omohundro sold the house one year later in 1921 to Jeff McCarn and his wife Mary. The McCarn family lived in the house until the death of Mr. McCarn in 1947. McCarn's will directed that all of his real estate be placed in trust, for the use of his wife, and to eventually pass to his children.

The oldest house on the street is most likely the one at 802 McCarn. More research is needed but it appears the house may have been built by Eugene Cato about 1914.


  1. Thanks for the history on the McCarn house, "DeeCee"! I will have to go back and look at the house you reference as the oldest house on the street.

  2. My wife and I live on Eastland Ave and we enjoy riding our bicycles by this old house. On 9/7/13 we attended a "Songwriters Session" at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Songwriter Victoria Shaw explained that she and Garth Brooks co-wrote the song "The River" while both were living in East Nashville and that the song was written in a "tiny" house there. I approached her after the session and asked her where the house was in East Nashville. She told me that it was on McCarn street. I did not ask her for the specific address. Does anyone know which house she is referring to?

  3. Brad, I don't know which house Shaw was referring to. There are several small houses on the street. Interesting to know such a big hit was written on that little street. If you ever find out I would love to know.

  4. The residence is still a private home, I at one time was close friends with the owner and the interior is amazing.


  6. Hi Debie - I live at 802 McCarn - been here 2 years now. Would love to connect with you and find out what info you have about our house. :) Will see about sending you a message.

    1. Sorry but other than what I found in researching the McCarn house, I don't know much about your house. Eugene Cato bought some property there, a good larger than the lot the house is located on, in 1914. Within the year he is living at that location, though there is no street name or number. Listed as the south side of Tillman and 2 (streets)east of Porter. Cato sold the house and lot in 1921 to Lillian and Frank Welburn. The lot frontage was about as it is today but it ran back to Washington St. If you are on facebook you can message me there. I will check my other folder.

  7. Debie: I'm living in your old house at 814 McCarn. I bought it 12 years ago. Thanks for the information on the big house.

  8. Hi Brian. We lived in the house 1974-1978. We bought it from the McCarn estate. The same neighbor who gave me info on the McCarn house told me there had once been a chicken farm at 814. When we bought the house it did not have a foundation and we couldn't afford to put one under it. The floors slanted badly. We only gave around 7,000 for it. The next owner put in a foundation and most likely rewired and re-plumbed the house. We had good neighbors over there. We moved to Inglewood, so we didn't go very far. Our oldest daughter started kindergarten from there at Cora Howe.


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