a home designed to last…

DR. Lowe home Lebanon TN

This home, built by Dr. Charles Thomas Lowe, is now owned by my dear friends, Chuck and Dena Lowe.  Chuck is Dr. Lowe’s grandson, and he and Dena lovingly maintain the residence and use it for extended family gatherings.

If you’ve lived in Lebanon most of your life, and are over- oh, say 45-50 years old, chances are Dr. Lowe delivered you.  from all accounts, he was a fascinating man, and most of  those who knew him have stories to share.  I was only around him a handful of times, but knowing his grandson (Charles “Chuck” Thomas Lowe, III) and great-grandson (Charles “Chaz” Thomas Lowe, IV) like I do- if they are any indication (and I know they are) of what kind of person he was, then he was a fine, fine man.

The following is my original story published in the May/ June 2017 issue of wilson living magazine, and most all of the 80+ photographs taken by professional interior photographer jodi totten. however, of all the photos taken, the ones that show the exquisite features and period appropriate details of the home, and the personal items of Dr. Lowe, were not included in the magazine spread- so I’m sharing them with you here.

Enjoy this glimpse into the home and life of a man who was truly- ahead of his time.

Tucked deep in the trees on the west side of town, this mid-century jewel remains solemn, perfectly preserved, and seemingly untouched by the outside world. The approach to the home navigates through it’s wooded expanse toward what most would assume to be the front of the house.  But what is seen as the front, was intended to be the rear of the structure when it was built.   The main road that now exists in the “front” of this home, although planned, was not constructed at the time.  When construction of the road eventually began, the city brought it through at rear of the property, instead of the front, as originally proposed.  Yet because of the architecture and design of this home, guests would probably never realize this. However, this is just one of many intriguing facts and stories about this home.

{“front” of the home (or the side that faces the street),  that was actually designed to be the rear of the home}

{“rear” of the home, which was actually intended to be the front entrance}

{side yard view of the home}

{the beautiful pool, installed by the owner before Chuck, sits in the space that used to be Dr. Lowe’s tennis courts} 

Built by Dr. Charles Thomas Lowe in the mid-sixties, the home is now owned by his grandson, Chuck Lowe (Charles Thomas Lowe, III) and his wife, Dena.  Chuck built his own home directly next door to Dr. Lowe when he returned home from college.  Chuck and Dena now lovingly take care of his grandfather’s home, meticulously protecting a piece of their family history, and the former home of one of Lebanon’s most innovative and original personalities.

Dr. Lowe was a well-educated man, speaking several languages including German and Spanish.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt in 1932, and his medical degree in 1936.   As one of the principal physicians in Lebanon, he delivered babies and took care of patients until he sold his practice to Dr. Robert Bone in the mid-sixties.

Dr. Lowe’s Home Office

{this room was Dr. Lowe’s home office.  in it hang his diplomas, his medical cabinets, and his original doctor’s bag}

{this cabinet was in his office at McFarland hospital and contains his stethoscope and one of his bolos that he always wore}

{another one of his original medicine cabinets- this one has a story all unto itself…it was sold by Dr. Lowe’s wife after his passing.  I happened to stumble upon it and another piece at an estate sale…inquired on it’s history- found out who it originally belonged to- immediately called Dena, and now these pieces are back in their home where they belong}

{his doctor’s bag still contains everything he used- right down to his prescription book and some meds.  Chuck and Dena said he wore the blue mask shown at the top of the bag every time he saw a patient.} 

But Dr. Lowe’s interests extended far beyond the city limits of Lebanon, TN.  His daughter Betsy relayed that he hated the cold, preferring to spend the winter months in Acapulco and other warmer climates.  After marrying his second wife Ruth in the early sixties, they traveled to Europe,  and while there, visited Ruth’s brother who was stationed in Israel as a missionary.  It was on this trip that Dr. Lowe began to formulate the idea for his home.  Betsy said he admired the way the houses in Israel were built surrounding an outdoor space.  After living in Europe for 18 months, Dr. Lowe and Ruth returned to Lebanon, eager to begin construction.

Antique Atrium Lebanon TN

{the atrium in the middle of the home allows access to all sides of the house.  the motorized glass roof  (50+ years old) still opens!}

Dr. Lowe’s son, Tommy (Charles Thomas Lowe, Jr.) chuckled when asked about the plans or blueprints of the house.  “Plans?  There were no plans!  I had to follow Daddy driving on a trip to Florida, and we talked about the house on the citizen’s band radio all the way down, and all the way back.  When we got home, we staked it off and built it.”  Tommy recounted that his father had purchased the property, a total of around 175 or so acres, on two separate occasions as the parcels of property were originally a bottling plant and dairy farm.

The structure of the home is comparable to few others.  All the exterior walls are built of concrete block, and the interior walls and floors of twelve-inch-thick pre-stressed concrete.  The roof is also concrete, which was brought in and set by cranes.  In the photographs, the seams seen in ceiling are where the concrete beams align.  Chuck was twelve years old at the time the house was being built, and remembers watching the cranes set the concrete.  Because of the substantial framework and density and girth of the structure, it was recognized as one of the area’s only fallout shelters.  The Civil Defense used the basement, which was air-tight, to store food rations in case of emergency.  The basement has a vent that runs many feet out into the property, and Chuck can remember hearing Ruth and her friends playing bridge in the basement when he would be out in the yard.  The atrium that the house surrounds was originally only a porch, but as Betsy relayed, “They don’t get as much rain in Israel as we do in Tennessee, so Daddy started having problems out there on the porch.”  That’s when Dr. Lowe installed the glass roof to enclose it.  Although over fifty years old, the motorized atrium glass roof still opens on the right side.  Understanding this installation was made in the late 1960’s proves how Dr. Lowe was always just a bit ahead of his time.

Antique Atrium Lebanon TN

Dr. Lowe and Ruth lived in the home until his passing in January of 2003.  Upon his passing, his daughter Betsy inherited the home.  As she has lived out of state most of her adult life, she sold the home to her brother Tommy, who then made the decision to also sell it.  The new owner of the home was transferred after living there eight years, and that is when Chuck and Dena purchased the house.

When they acquired it in 2015, the interior of the house had been maintained well by the previous owner, with exception of the basement- but in true Chuck and Dena fashion, they painstakingly restored and repaired every inch of the house.  Many of the original interior finishes remain, apart from new carpeting and appliances.

Chuck and Dena are grateful to be able to preserve Dr. Lowe’s legacy and share it with their children and grandchildren, as they use the home for extended family gatherings and entertaining……and in the front corner of the main room, hangs a large portrait of Dr. Lowe, smiling over them all.

Dr. Charles T. Lowe Lebanon TN

additional interior photos:

{coming in the rear entry of the home, this is the view from the foyer down through the main part of the home.  the atrium is to the far right of the photo.} 

{this photo takes us through a small hallway that leads into his home office to the left, and bathroom straight ahead.  note the original mirrored doors.}

{everything is original in this bath except the light strips around the vanity mirror.  walled subway tall is trending now– Dr. Lowe was a trend-setter, and trend predictor.  I specify tops every day that look identical to the ones on this vanity!}

original sink:

{ceiling beams that cover the concrete seams}

{Chuck’s father, Tommy (Charles Thomas Lowe, Jr.), brought this globe back from Europe.  the photograph is of Tommy, his sister Betsy, and their mother.}

{the side porch addition built with walnut milled from trees on the farm}

{master bedroom}

{the master bath was certainly ahead of it’s time.  although once again, the vanity is akin to something you may see in a home built today, but the sunken tub was definitely a luxury when built!} 

{these are orignal built-ins- no home when this was built had built-ins in the closet- much less walk-in closets}

{here you can see two of the three entries onto the center atrium porch.  note that the wood flooring throughout the home was laid in individual pieces}

{original brick kitchen wall- again, note the intricate woodwork on the floor}

{this original doorbell lights up when it rings- Chuck believes that it was because Dr. Lowe began to have difficulty hearing}

{stairs leading to the basement where the civil defense once stored it’s food rations}

{Chuck and Dena had to completely redo this basement because of damage, but Dr. Lowe originally had this room decorated in a nautical theme.  around the perimeter of the room hung rope strung through brass loops as on a ship, and the walls above were painted as the ocean}  

{some of Chuck’s relatives- on the back of each locket there is a lock of their hair} 

what a treasure this home is, and will be, to many generations to come…

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Tour of Dr. Lowe home Superior Construction and Design Lebanon, TN

18 replies to “a home designed to last…

  • Wow – that is amazing!!! Concrete ceilings? I can’t even imagine what it must have taken to build this. I’m a bit enamored with the bathroom tile.Thank you for sharing this story and the images of this unique home!!!

  • Great local history! Love the exposed brick, those gorgeous wrought iron doors and the kitchen. I had no idea this gem was in Lebanon. Thanks for sharing!!

    • And that’s exactly why I wanted to share this story Michelle!! SO many locals have no idea that this incredible home exists- and most of us have driven by it every day
      of our lives!! thanks so much for reading and sharing!

  • Now this is a mid century home! I love it! I always wondered what the inside looked like. Thànks for showing.

    • As I said in the article- there were no house plans for this home:) thanks so much for reading! and yes, the open-air concept and
      atrium is fantastic. truly a jewel in our town!

  • Thank you Elizabeth. A true piece of Lebanon History, Dr. Lowe was my pediatrician even before we moved to Lebanon from Hartsville (where your Mom and her family were very good friends) We moved to Lebanon in 1954 and Mom continued to carry me to Dr. Lowe, until he no longer practiced. I have always heard about this house, but never saw the interior but am not surprised at the innovative way he designed this home. Again, thanks for the beautiful trip thru his home and so proud of Chuck and Dena for continuing Dr. Lowe’s legacy.

    • Sandra, I’m so happy you enjoyed seeing the home- and sorry I’m just seeing your comment! yes, I’m so glad Chuck and Dena are continuingh Dr. Lowe’s legacy through this home- it is truly spectacular! of course if you know Chuck and Dena, then you know that they would have it no other way. Chuck is meticulous in everything he does, as is Dena- and they are so proud to be able to own and maintain this piece of family history. ♥

  • True story….I dreamed last night, about hobby to Dr. Lowe for home office visits on the rare occasion…I just remembered that I dreamed about being 4-6 yrs old when I had Dr. Lowe as my physician, so I just took time to Google and found your photos!! WOW!

    • oh Joy!
      I’m SO happy you stumbled across this post and were able to see these photos!
      Chuck and Dena have done such an amazing job in keeping this home and his memory alive. Dr. Lowe is a part of SO many people’s memories, and I love that his home is such a special part of Lebanon’s history.
      Thanks for commenting and letting us know it is part of your memories as well. 🙂

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