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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2018

The Bachman Martin Dobyns Home restored

The Bachman Martin Dobyns House in Kingsport, Tennessee, was restored by Mary Jo Case and houses a portion of her collection.
The Bachman Martin Dobyns House in Kingsport, Tennessee, was restored by Mary Jo Case and houses a portion of her collection.
Additional photos below »

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | July 27, 2016

Mary Jo Case says the Bachman Martin Dobyns House in Kingsport, Tennessee, needed her.

The house, which was the home of Kingsport's first mayor, J. W. Dobyns, is next door to her home.

"It had been on the market for more than two years, and it was in terrible shape," she says. "I heard that they were considering tearing it down, and I couldn't let that happen. It needed me, and I needed it. I saved the house, and it saved me."

It took her two years, but she restored the house. The first project she tackled was the yard. "It was filled with trees that had just grown anywhere. The yard was completely overgrown. So the first thing I did was clear that out."

The house had water damage from a leaky roof, and the wallpaper was peeling off the wall. The light fixtures and doorknobs had been removed. Interior French doors were missing glass panes. "It was mostly a shell," she says. It's now on the National Historic Register.

Case had plaster repaired and painted, floors refinished, lighting fixtures replaced, period doorknobs found, glass replaced and the tile floors replaced in the bathroom, among myriad repairs. One of the newel posts on the staircase was missing, and she managed to find a duplicate to replace it.

Portions of Case's collection of Tennessee furniture (corner cupboards, pie safes, beds and miscellaneous pieces), silver, ceramics and pottery, paintings by Tennessee artists, such as Samuel Shaver and other objects fill the house. Her collection in both houses is extensive.

Andrew Martin built the plantation house shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Bachman in 1878. Elizabeth's father, Thomas Bachman, purchased the land as part of 1,270 acres from David Ross in 1835 and developed it into a large plantation. The land was later sub-divided and developed into Kingsport's Fair Acres-Dobyns Addition. It became the home of Kingsport's first mayor in the 20th century, when he moved to Kingsport in 1906, 10 years before Kingsport was incorporated.

Case didn't plan on buying a second house, but when she saw a piece of history decaying, she was compelled to save it. And as she says, "I love a project."

> Mary Jo Case: The Queen of Tennessee Collectors

Topics: Art

"The Powell Boys" by Sullivan County native Samuel Shaver is at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston Salem, North Carolina.

This Tennessee corner cupboard houses part of Mary Jo Case's collection.