History of Roper Mansion
We’ve compiled a brief history to share with you about one of Tennessee ’s oldest buildings. We hope you will visit us and enjoy historic Dandridge and the beautiful Roper Mansion.
In 1817, John Roper, who had been a Colonel in the War of 1812, built the Roper Tavern, one of a number of taverns established to cater to boats plying the French Broad River and those traveling the stage coach road between Virginia and Tennessee . In 1820, John began to build the Roper Mansion , across the road from the tavern, as a wedding gift for his daughter Mary and her husband-to-be, John Branner. The house was completed in time for the wedding in April 1821.
In keeping with building practices of the time, bricks for the house were fired at the site; hand-made bricks were too fragile to withstand a bumpy wagon trip on the area’s rocky roads. The heart pine timbers were fastened with nails individually made by a blacksmith. A dumb waiter was installed to ease the moving of food from floor to floor, and nine fireplaces (seven of which remain) were added for heat. Azure blue ceramic tiles adorning the parlor fireplace can still be seen today in what has been used in past years as a master bedroom.
The house has gone through two major restoration projects – in 1949 and again in 1999. In 1949, windows were replaced and repaired, plumbing added (there was only one faucet in the house at that time), electrical rewiring, partial replastering, and installation of a kitchen and bathroom were completed. In 1999, another major restoration of the Roper Mansion was accomplished: floors and porches were rebuilt and stabilized; old bricks removed from the basement floors to repair chimneys, the house and the carriage house; roofing was replaced and restored; walls and ceilings repaired; new plumbing and wiring installed; heating and air conditioning was added, as well as a remodeling of the kitchen and bath on the main floor. The old heart of pine floors were beautifully refinished and the huge old windows were reglazed and painted.
Two owners added interesting architectural and decorative features. In the 1820s George Branner brought the four wooden mantles by wagon when he returned from a business trip to Baltimore . James Gass replaced the twelve foot stoop with the present front porch in the 1890s for the benefit of his wife, a dedicated porch sitter.
The house has known its share of slaves and masters, of gay times and scandals. George Branner, who had a congenitally defective hip, was willed by his father a personal slave named Nimrod to help him up and down the house’s steep steps. Col. John Roper also held slaves during his tenure here. John Roper Branner, born to George and Mary Branner in this house, became president of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, later the Southern Railway, and built the famous Glenmore House in Jefferson City . W.A. Branner and Elizabeth Caswell entertained more than 150 guests at their wedding reception in the house in 1854. During the gay 90’s one of the daughters of James Gass eloped from the window of the upstairs east bedroom.
After being vacant for a few years, Roper Mansion caught the eyes of Susan and Larry Ferguson, who bought the building in 2009. With their love of antiques and historic architecture, the Fergusons believed that Roper Mansion could again come alive with a new purpose: The Shoppes at Roper Mansion.
Today, Roper Mansion houses an array of antiques, collectibles, gifts, home decor, gourmet foods and even a pet boutique. This unique shopping atmosphere affords the shopper a distinctive historic experience: Roper Mansion ‘s Federal architecture, seven beautiful fireplaces, a summer kitchen and keeping room which house primitive antiques and gardening delights, a carriage house and several porches to relax and enjoy views of our lovely town.