Laney Carter with Laney Carter Interior Design, and Arch Willingham, President of T.U. Parks Construction, were part of the steering committee to restore the landmark home in one of Chattanooga’s oldest urban neighborhoods, St. Elmo.

CHATTANOOGA. Last July, we shared with you a project of vision in a neighborhood at the foot of Lookout Mountain called St. Elmo. A large home had fallen into great disrepair after sitting vacant for years.

Saturday, that same home with a once sagging roofline and rusted chain link fencing, was greeted by neighbors, the city’s Mayor, and bankers for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The tour took everyone by surprise, except for those who had volunteered in demolition and restoration.

Nashville Interiors will bring you a complete view of these beautiful interiors in an upcoming story and conversation with designer Laney Carter. Here’s a sneak peak from the ribbon cutting celebration. 

Holding the large scissors wasn’t a banker or politician, but rather a 90-year old widow, her gray hair neatly kept in two long braids that framed her face. Andy Mendonsa invited Mildred and four other widows from the community to represent the resilience of the neighborhood, a place that has had its share of tensions, but is committed in myriad ways to avoid thoughtless ‘gentrification.’

Andy Mendonsa introducing Mildren and the widows he works with, including his mother.

Looking out at those who had gathered around the new Easter-basket-green sod lawn, Andy Mendonsa steps to a pine pulpit.

“This project exists to plead their case,” he said. Widows, he noted, are often invisible in growing communities such as St. Elmo, though they have great commitment and are wise leaders. Andy Medonsa is the founder of Widows Harvest, a non-profit faith-based organization that engages community year-round in repairing roofs or plumbing to help widows remain in their homes and beloved communities. He’s been at this not for years, but for decades.

The proceeds of this unique project will help support the many repair projects completed on windows homes each year through Widows Harvest.

Powder room glass knob 

The Wells Fargo Bank officials in attendance underscored the win-win opportunity the project brings to the community with the support of widows. Wells Fargo Bank donated the foreclosed property with the hope that the project will serve as the catalyst for further investment and rejuveniation.

The home now has a real estate sign planted near the blooming Lenten roses. The Jim Lea Team with Keller-Williams Realty serves as the listing agent. The four bedroom, four bath home is 2,757 square feet, full of great detail and original architectural features such as the curved front steps, a large bay window in the dining room, original staircase and fireplace detail, solid wood pocket doors, and the historic footprint.

We look forward to taking you inside this showcase house with a focus on interior design, but for now here’s a brief look at the volunteers and neighbors who made this vision a beautiful reality. 

Warm oak and heart pine floors are found throughout. In the new upstair’s laundry room, the floors have a cork surface.

The Powells, now retired, once lived nearby and knew the original owners. They came back for their first tour of the home. They have been closely following the project since it began a year ago.

It is hard to imagine the amount of work and volunteer hours that went into the restoration. At the tour, images of the “before picture” were set up on easels throughout the house as a reminder.

Mildred, 90, is one of the leaders of Widows Harvest, a ministry founded in Chattanooga and recognized as a model of sustainable living as well as an award winning faith-based initiative. Student and adult groups travel to Chattanooga in the summer and on college breaks to work with Andy’s team on construction projects. This home was their most ambitious restoration to date. If your civic or faith group would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit the Widows Harvest website.

Laney Carter Interior Design selected fresh fixtures and finishes for the clapboard home built in 1900. But this is just a tease. We will do a complete story on the interiors in an upcoming article and interview with Laney Carter.

A peek at the kitchen countertop and backsplash that shows the attention to detail Laney Carter brought to the project.

Widows Harvest staff member, Lisa, keeps the projects and volunteers like Candace connected 

The Powells share the history of their old neighborhood.

Ribbon cutting ceremonies were held Saturday, March 26, meaning the historic home is now officially complete and on the market. The Jim Lea Team is the listing real estate agent.