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Cumberland Homesteads Historic District

Crossville City, Cumberland County, TN

Photo: Home in the historic district by phtographer Brian Stansberry (wikipedia username), 2010, (creative commons 3.0), accessed August, 2020.


The Cumberland Homesteads Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Hisstoric Places in 1988. It is located in Cumberland County, Tennessee on approximately 10,250 acres near the county seat of Crossville, Tennessee. Cumberland Homesteads is an un-incorporated area but retains a distinct community identity from its plan and the architectural style of the houses and out buildings.

Cumberland Homesteads was established as a Subsistence Farm Community in 1934 by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Both the community plan and houses were designed by William Macy Stanton. The area originally consisted of 251 Farm Homesteads built on lots averaging from 10 to 160 acres with the average homestead consisting of sixteen acres.

Built on a plateau of the Cumberland Mountains the area is primarily rolling hills interspersed with hollows and deep ravines. Several small creeks, including Daddys Creek, Three-mile Creek, Byrd Creek and Long Hollow Branch, meander through the colony. The area was originally timberland that was cleared for farmland by Civil Works Administration (CWA) workers and the homesteaders. Areas that were determined unsuitable for farming were left as timberland. Originally 8,903 acres were farm tracts, 1,245 acres were common land (grazing, woodland, cooperative enterprises), 11,200 acres were held for further development,and 5,055 were owned by the cooperative association. Located near the center of the project is Cumberland Mountain State Park, a Civilian Conservation Corps project built in conjunction with the Homesteads. The park, approximately 1,300 acres, consists primarily of timberland and contains Byrd Lake, a man-made lake. In 1938 land held by the government and by the cooperative association for Cumberland Homesteads totaled 27,802 acres.

The most prevalent and recognizable property type associated with Cumberland Homesteads is the Farm Homestead. The Farm Homesteads include a collection of buildings and structures designed for the resettlement of needy families onto small subsistence farms. A Farm Homestead consisted of a residence and a combination of outbuildings that included barns, chicken house, smokehouse, sheds and privies. Several Farm Homesteads still retain many of their original outbuildings, however, there are some Farm Homesteads that have no extant historic outbuildings and some outbuildings with no extant historic residence. The residences of the Cumberland Homesteads are generally one or one-and-one-half story houses with indigenous Crab Orchards and stonewalls and gable roofs. The Crab Orchard sandstone walls were constructed with either quarried stone or field stone. All houses originally had open shed roof entrance porches, some of which have been enclosed.

In an effort to offset the devastating effects of the Great Depression on the country President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the New Deal programs to aid the nation's economy. The New Deal Acts involved several aspects of relief aid and work, one portion of which dealt with housing reform. The National Industrial Recovery Act (May 1933), Section 208, Title II established the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. Section 208 provided the President with $25,000,000 for making loans and aiding in the purchase of land for subsistence homesteads. The subsistence homestead program was aimed at providing housing opportunities for either the under- or unemployed who were willing to work hard to form new communities based on a cooperative form of government and a back to the land philosophy.

President Roosevelt appointed Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, to carry out the provisions of Section 208. Ickes in turn created the Division of Subsistence Homesteads and appointed M. L. Wilson as the director. Officially organized in August 1933 the Division of Subsistence Homesteads proposed four types of communities: experimental farm colonies, subsistence gardens for city workers, colonies for stranded workers, homesteads for part-time industrial workers. On October 14, 1933 the division announced they would concentrate on three types of homestead communities. These included communities for part-time farmers located near industrial employment, communities of resettled farmers from submarginal land, and communities for stranded miners.

Approximately fifteen different house designs were used throughout the community, but only eleven of the plans were repeated. Homeowners were allowed to make minor changes to the stock plans and several houses were built with reversed plans, different orientation to the road and variations to interior room design. A few one-of-a-kind houses were constructed. One-of-a-kind houses include 30 Open Range Road, 1 Grassy Cove Road, and 14 Grassy Cove Road.

The interior of the houses vary according to the different plans and individual homeowners requests. Houses with similar exterior appearances may have a completely different room arrangement. Generally the houses are four to seven rooms, contain one or two fireplaces, have paneled walls, built-in bookcases and batten doors with "Z" braces and hardware made by the community blacksmith shop. The wood used in the construction of the houses was harvested from land immediately surrounding the homestead. The majority of the interior walls and woodwork in the houses are of white or yellow pine, with some poplar and oak.

Adapted from: Elizabet A. Straw, Historic Preservation Specialist, Tennessee Historical Commission, nomination documentm 1988, Cumberland Homesteads Historic District, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

Street Names
Chestnut Lane • Coon Hollow Road • County Seat Road • Crab Apple Lane • Crab Orchard Road • Deep Draw Road • Grassy Cove Road • Highland Lane • Huckleberry Road • Old Mail Road • Open Range Road • Pigeon Ridge Road • Saw Mill Road • Turkey Oak Road • Valley Road • Wild Plum Road