Historic Homes in Livingston

While gathering information for Livingston’s Exchange Club tour of homes coming up next month during Overton County’s Bicentennial celebration, I’ve been surprised at some of the things I’ve learned about some of the older homes around town. In particular, a home I’ve spent the night in a few times when I was around the age of seven or eight years old turns out to have an interesting historical background, and is much older than I realized.

This home, once owned by Dr. and Mrs. A.B. Qualls, Sr., was moved from East Main to South Goodpasture Street after being placed on logs and then pulled by mules/horses.  The process took 3 days to complete, although the distance between to two location is only around 300 yards.


The home is located on the corner of East Cedar Street and South Goodpasture and once belonged to Dr. and Mrs. A.B. Qualls. It was purchased in 1988 by John Meyer and wife Elwanda Meyer, both now deceased. (The Meyer family will be remembered as having a business for many years in the old co-op building on South Goodpasture Street called Livingston Trade Center). At one time, my Grandpa and Grandma Copeland, Elza and Lou Dora, rented the home, something I was not aware of until just recently. When I visited in there, Walter and Laura Hammons were the owners and lived in the house. During the time my family lived on the corner of East Cedar Street, the Hammons grandchildren would visit Mr. and Mrs. Hammons most every summer. I was sometimes asked by their granddaughter, Jane Fisk, to spend the night with her in the Hammons home. That would have been in the early 1950's. At that time, the history of the house would not have been of interest to me, but time does have a way of changing things along with attitudes. In doing research about house, I learned that it was once owned by Dr. and Mrs. A.B. Qualls, Sr. Their son, Herbert Qualls, was born in the house in November of 1917. During that period of time, the house was not where it stands now, but was originally located on the property now owned by Roy Riser and wife Linda Riser. When Dr. and Mrs. Qualls decided to build a new home on the corner of East Main and Goodpasture Street, the white frame house was made ready for moving to its present location. Even though the distance the home was moved was not really all that far, it took two or three days to accomplish. Once the home was removed from the foundation, logs were placed beneath it. Horses and/or mules were used to pull the house down the street. That had to be quite an accomplishment considering the methods available in that day and time. The fact that Herbert Qualls was born in that house in 1917 would indicate the age of the house must be close to100 years old. In between owners, it was allowed to really run down more than once, and has been remodeled several times with the changing of ownership. Prior to being moved, the house had been decorated with lots of gingerbread trim, but sadly, none of that remained in tact and was probably torn off over the years.
Other information I learned about a building that sits on the lot right behind the former Qualls residence is that it is believed to have been the office of Dr. Melville Boozer Capps and later belonged to his son, Dr. John Doak Capps. That building was also moved from wherever it was originally located. In the late 1940's, Oather and Irene Savage owned it, and their daughter, Venita, was born while they lived there. Venita and husband, James Lightsey, have the Apple Dish Restaurant on the square in Livingston. The present owner, Christine Dodson and her late husband, Glen Dodson, bought the house from Dallas Collins and wife Della Collins in 1953. Glen, Christine, along with their two daughters, Peggy and Debbie, lived in the structure prior to building a new home near to where the office building that was once their home stands today. I have not been able to determine exactly where the former Capps’ office stood prior to being moved to South Goodpasture Street. However, from reading something written by Captain A.L. Dale, son of William Dale, about the early history of Livingston, his description says that building was located where Webb Real Estate is now. But, my question is, did the building the Dodsons now own sit on that corner, or was their office located in another building that may have been there? Captain Dale’s says this about the homes that once stood on East Main Street:

"On the left of the State Highway, east of the square, the large brick residence of Dr. A.B. Qualls, the offices of Dr. Qualls and Attorney E.A. Qualls, on land formerly owned by Judge W.W. Goodpasture. Then, the office and residence of Dr. J.D. Capps, formerly owned by his father, Dr. M.B. Capps, and on the site of the old Presbyterian church. Then Phillip Myers, John Miller, and R.L. Mitchell, Jr. Conclude the residences to the bridge near Burr Speck’s residence."


This structure is believed to have been the office of Dr. Melville Boozer Capps and was later used by his son, Dr. John Doak Capps.  It was moved to South Goodpasture Street where it is now owned by Mrs. Christine Dodson, wife of the late Glen Dodson.


I cannot determine if the Webb’s office building may have once been the Capps’ office building and home, or if another structure once stood there. In looking at pictures printed in a 1986 issue of the Overton County News honoring the Tennessee Homecoming celebration, a building very similar to one owned by the Dodsons is included, and is identified as Attorney E. A. Knight’s office building. It stood where the Livingston Flower Basket and the Shady Rose businesses are now. I wonder if the Knight building could have been moved from there, and eventually became the Capps’ office building, and then moved again to what is now the Dodson property. It seems there must be some connection with the fact that not one but two homes/buildings were moved to a location on South Goodpasture Street very close to one another. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can shed some light on this mystery I seemed to have created.

Regardless of what the answer turns out to be, or even if no answer is ever determined, one thing is for certain. Folks back then were better at preserving these older homes than we are today. It seems it would have been much easier just to tear both these buildings down in order to build something new, but I’m glad to say that was the case with either one. Too many times we’ve stood by while a bulldozer was called in to take down part of our history, leaving nothing but memories that all too quickly disappear with the passage of time. Livingston originally had some very fine homes that no longer exist, not to mention some beautiful old hotel buildings. Only some photographs remain to substantiate the fact they were once a part of our town. If all those old structures had been preserved over the years, Livingston would surely have been at the top of the list for historical places to see and visit in the state of Tennessee.

The Exchange Club tour of homes included in Overton County’s 200th birthday celebration is scheduled for September 9th beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tickets are $10.00 each and may be obtained The Stephens Center, Re/Max Real Estate, or the Overton County Farm Bureau.