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The Carellton Mansion Still Shines on the Hill

Once threatened by progress, this iconic Gallatin home now anchors an entire neighborhood.

Article by Scott Bell

Photography by Plum Poppy Photography

Originally published in Gallatin Lifestyle

When locals Josh and Jennifer Peyton bought the 10,000 sqft home in the Carellton neighborhood in 2019, they had big expectations and an even bigger desire to restore the home to its deserved glory of years before. The house that locals knew as "The Carellton Mansion" and "The Big House on the Hill" carries quite the history and local lore itself.

The estate home was built in 1993 by one of Tennessee's most influential businessmen and restauranteurs of his time, David Watchel, Jr. The stately home was fit for a restaurant king, who at the time, had a hand in founding, ownership or management in many local and national eateries and chains, including  O'Charleys, Shoney's, Logan's Roadhouse, Uncle Bud's, Santa Fe Cattle Company and Western Sizzlin. 

After Watchel's death in 2001, the home changed hands a few times throughout the years and eventually sat vacant while becoming part of a 400+ acre new residential development that later became the Carellton neighborhood. Developers initially had plans of tearing down the home that, while an impressive estate, did not fit the aesthetics of the new development. Eventually, they decided to not only incorporate the home into the neighborhood but to make it an anchor and the rightful showpiece of the neighborhood that it should always have been. 

New streets and homes surrounding the once rolling hills and farmland began to encircle the property as the stately home watched on. Progress traveled along the Long Hollow countryside and soon hundreds of homes overtook the surrounding acreage. By this time, the Peytons who were living in Nashville were waiting for their opportunity. It was in 2019 that they received their chance after the developer finally listed the house for sale and a longtime friend called them the first day it was available to tell them about it. They went to see the home and it didn't take long to make a decision. 

"We fell in love as we walked in the front door," remembers Jennifer.

Shortly after that, they bought the home and moved into the big house on the hill in August of 2019.

Immediately, Josh and Jennifer went to work restoring the Carellton Mansion and making it their own. Almost everything was replaced and made new: AC units, plumbing, sewer, windows, doors, fixtures, trim, paint and handles. Walls were taken down, bathrooms, playrooms and bedrooms were updated and a sunroom and rear patio were updated and added. Josh's favorite part of the home is the newly built, full bar on display on the main level, which has become the center for entertaining guests. Perhaps the biggest undertaking was creating an entirely separate home on the bottom level for Jennifer's parents, who moved into the home with them. There were many reasons for the move but it would actually mean spending the final two years with Jennifer's dad in the home, before he passed away unexpectedly in August 2021.

"It was so important for us to ensure that they had everything to feel like a house and not an in-law suite," says Jennifer.

 Once completed, the downstairs space had a beautiful, traditional feel with 2,500 sqft of separate living space--truly a home within a home. 

While the Peytons continue to have ongoing projects within the home, having the majority of work completed means more time focusing on their three young children, the many civic groups and organizations they are a part of around the community and their Gallatin businesses that also allow them to give back to, and be a part of, the local community.

In 2021, Josh and Jennifer opened Fitness 1440 Gallatin, a full-service fitness center on Goodview Way, and in the summer of 2022, they will open Crown and Iris, a family lifestyle boutique that will be in the new Publix center next to the Carellton neighborhood (Long Hollow & Big Station Camp). They are also the owners of Covenant Building Services and continue to find ways to give back to this community they love. 

When asked how taking the leap and making such a large house their forever home impacted their lives, Jennifer sums it up quite succinctly, saying, "we will forever be grateful for the memories this home has already given us and we look forward to the years ahead as we continue to grow in this home and community!"