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Jim/Lindsey Wilson History: The Cottage on Arbor Vitae Hill
The relatively modest home of the teacher-administrator, Prof. Patrick Douglas "P.D." Neilson and his family was the talk of Columbia as it was being built in 1907, receiving lavish praise in the Adair County News, during and after construction - equally so, when it perished in a fire 10 years later, the News lamented - appropriately - it's passing. And a sidenote: If this structure or another Garnett Avenue one The Garnett House owned by Judge James Garnett were still in existence, would there be any shortage of visitors to Adair County? Just to see either of those? - CM
Click on headline for complete JIM story with photo of the cottage
An unobtrusive announcement at the top of page one of the Adair County News a century ago this week (February 21, 1917) informed readers of a recent sale: "Tutt & Reed, real estate agents, transferred the P.D. Neilson residence, on Garnett Avenue, to L.C. Hindman, for $1,500."
At the time, the house was not quite a decade old, construction having been started in late 1907 and completed the closing days of the following March. In November 1907, the News mentioned that the structure, located "at the top of the hill leading to the Lindsey-Wilson" near the classroom building (now the L.R. Administration Building) would be "modern in every particular."
The cottage, as the paper sometimes called it -- was built as the private property of Prof. Patrick Douglas "P.D." Neilson, his wife, the former Miss Maytie Hardin, and their daughter Mary H., then two or three years old. The family had arrived in Columbia early in the summer of 1905, shortly after the Educational Board of the M.E.C.,S. hired Prof. Neilson as an administrator-teacher at the Lindsey Wilson.
Maytie, although not employed by the school, became immersed in student activities, oft-times lending a hand -- and sometimes leading the charge -- in extracurricular productions such as "Reveries of a Bachelor" (put on by the young ladies of the school) and a musical, "A Gypsy Cantata," the latter proclaimed far and wide as a success.
Mrs. Neilson played a major part in the look of the dwelling place. Shortly after construction ended, the News commented of it, "The residence was designed according to Mrs. Neilson's taste--distinct from any other cottage in Columbia...The house contains seven rooms besides all necessary closets, bath room and pantry, [and] it has an unusual porch frontage, of various angles, which adds materially to its attractiveness as well as to its convenience and worth. "
Well-known contractor J.W. Richards, who lived nearby, got the contract and upon completion of the job, the News spared no ink heaping praise upon that worthy gentleman, referring to him as "one of Columbia's most skilled carpenters--a man who knows where every nail should go, how every joint should be made and who is able and willing to measure up to the true demands of a drawing."
The News also spoke glowingly of the painter, saying, "The finishing touches, from the hand that yields the brush and brings beauty to the surface, are those of Mr. Jo A. Young, who knows his business and keeps everlastingly at it."
And, of the completed house, the contractor and painter, and Mrs. Neilson's design combined, the paper allowed, "There is not a better constructed building in Columbia, and not one that outrivals it on finish--a monument to the carpenter, a flower to the painter and a desirable home for the owner."
The Neilsons happily resided in their custom-built cottage for a little over five years. Come early June 1913, however, they departed Columbia and removed to Springfield, Tenn., where the professor had accepted a position. (The family eventually wound up in Ruston, La., where Prof. Neilson taught electrical engineering and served several years as head of the physics department at Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, now Louisiana Tech University, before retiring in the late 1940s.)
As noted in the opening paragraph, Mr. Lewis Clarence "L.C." Hindman bought the Neilson cottage on Arbor Vitae hill in February 1917, the residence having been occupied for some time by the widow Hynes. The Hindman family moved in early in June but fate cut short their stay there. Fewer than five months later, on a late October morning, "The beautiful residence of Mr. Clarence Hindman, known as the Neilson property...was destroyed by fire...between ten and eleven, the family being away from home..."
The building was a complete loss but thanks to the heroic efforts of the older LWTS students and several men of the town, "most of the household goods on the first floors" were saved from the blaze. The News estimated the loss at $2,500 with rumor having it the building was insured only for $1,000 and the contents for $250. The blaze was attributed to a spark from "the road machine," an unidentified piece of gasoline-powered roadworking equipment.
An image of the cottage as it appeared shortly after Messrs. Richards and Young fulfilled the contract appears elsewhere with this article. The photograph graced the front page of the June 24, 1908 edition of the Adair County News.
This story was posted on 2017-02-18 04:07:43
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