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The History of the Famous Magnolia Estate


The Famous Magnolia House

Built in 1868, The Rutland as the house was originally known, is a Madison County landmark. The House has survived for 150 years and has had only four owners. Sara and Brad Eavenson are the 4th owners of the old home and property. The Eavensons have continued to preserve the rich history and architecture of the House (which they call the “Magnolia House”) while continuing to enhance it with modern furnishings, fixtures, and elegance.


The original owner was Confederate Colonel James Henry Rumbough. Rumbough had the house built at the end of the Civil War for his wife, Carrie, and their eight children. The mansion was named The Rutland. Already a resident of what was then called Warm Springs, Rumbough owned the Mountain Park Hotel (located on what is now the geothermal Hot Springs Resort) and operated a stagecoach from Greeneville, Tennessee, to Greenville, South Carolina. He used the home to oversee his businesses and entertain guests, including famed writer O. Henry and President Andrew Johnson, whose son married one of the Rumbough daughters on the property.

A Rich History

Carrie Rumbough, wife of the Colonel, burned the only bridge over the French Broad River leading into Hot Springs to stop Union soldiers from entering the town.  Mrs. Rumbough also cared for injured soldiers at the House and kept a lock of hair of a young Union soldier who died while under her care.


The 16-room house remained in the Rumbough family for generations until their fortune was gone. The House and property are often written about in both fiction and non-fiction books.  A good historical description of the House and its former owner Colonel Rumbough is given in the excellent fiction book “A Short Time to Stay Here” which is about the town of Hot Springs as the location of the World War I German Internment camp. The author Terry Roberts is a North Carolina native and resident.

Colonel James Rumbough and wife Carrie
Magnolia House Entryway

A Very Strategic Restoration

The House has undergone renovations over the years, including a 1999 restoration which brought it close to its original 1868 appearance. During the 1999 restoration, the house was covered by a huge tent during construction, making it appear to be enclosed within a dome. This was done to protect the original custom Italianate plaster settings inlaid into the first-floor ceilings and ornate woodwork.


Special wallpaper with magnolia blossoms was selected for the foyer. Many items and parts of the deconstruction of the House over the years had been distributed around the community. As renovations began, locals were happy to return things.  For example, the newel post and sections of the handrail for the staircase are original items.  Many architectural and structural features remain from the original 1868 House, including the first-floor windows and wood floors.  There are three working gas fireplaces in the House.

To Present Day Splendor

The spacious kitchen was used for many years to operate an elegant high-end restaurant serving fine dining in the formal dining room and patios.  The house has 3 downstairs porches with 2 upstairs balconies with extraordinary mountain views of the Pisgah National Forest. There are many 150 year old trees on the almost 4 acre property, including a sprawling ancient spiderlike Walnut tree under which many a bride and groom have said their vows. The gardens on the property are attended to meticulously and boast wildflowers and lush native Appalachian plants. The property boasts large green lawns, and hammocks for relaxing between the black walnut trees.

A back gated private driveway allows guests to take a short stroll right over the 100+ year old “red bridge” into the quaint town of Hot Springs.

What was at one time servants' quarters in back of the house is now a renovated two-bedroom Cottage suite. The main house can accommodate 14 guests, while the Garden House (discussed below) can sleep up to 6. The property also abuts another home owned by the Eavensons called the “Garden House” with jaccuzzi and meticulously tended to herb and vegetable gardens. This property can be rented in tandem with the Magnolia House or separately.

Fireplace in Historical Magnolia House
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