Features, On campus

Tech History: The President’s House

The Walton house sits at the end of it's long, tree lined driveway.
The entrance to the Walton house can be see across from Bryan Fine Arts off of Dixie Ave. The entrance is marked by a replica of the Derryberry golden eagle. Photo by Cassandra Pratt.

At the end of the long, scenic driveway off North Dixie lies Walton House, the home of President Oldham. It stands tall with eight strong pillars and a sprawling lawn, complete with grand chandeliers and spiral staircases.

The first President, Quinton Smith, did not live in Walton House, however. His home was built in 1927, where he lived until the end of his presidency in 1938. Renovated in 1942, it was in the heart of campus on the corner of East 9th street and North Dixie, where the quad is today.

The first home of the President resembled a Georgian style, with one story of brick, with an ornate entryway and windows lining the front.

“Unfortunately, it was located on space needed for an expansion of the women’s dormitory, and Tech tore it down,” Megan Atkinson, University archivist, explained.

The current home of the President, Walton House, was built while Everett Derryberry was leading the school. The estate was, “named after Old Walton Road, which was the historical route from Nashville to Washington D.C. that passed the campus.”

Walton Road was frequently traveled by U.S. President Andrew Jackson on his way to visit Nashville, his hometown. The road navigated travelers through the upper Cumberland until Interstate 40 were built, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia.

Atkinson shared that Walton House was constructed by Tech maintenance rather than contractors, under Director of Buildings and Grounds Frank Moss, as well as Beecher Eller. Therefore, the Georgian style of the house matches other buildings on campus: classic brick buildings with many windows and white accents.

The house was not completed until 1965, after more than four years of construction, because other university renovations were a higher priority.

Since William Derryberry’s Presidency, which ended in 1974, there have been four Tech Presidents who lived in Walton House: Arlis Roaden (1974-1985), Wallace Prescott (1985-1987), Angelo Volpe (1987-2000), and Robert Bell (2000-2012).

With each President came changes to the University: Roaden saw the establishment of the music building and research programs; Prescott managed the school during times of transition; Volpe helped solidify the athletics department and saw the Olympic torch pass through campus in 1996; Bell expanded campus to provide buildings for nursing, STEM, and housing.

Each Presidential family has renovated Walton House, though some of the original furniture is still on display. Green leather chairs in the President’s office are original to Derryberry’s time in the house, and a grand piano in the living room belonged to Mrs. Derryberry.

The Oldham’s will be renovating the front lawn as part of the University’s Master Plan. The area will soon be known as Walton Park and will take the place of Sherlock Park. Walton Park will be used as a practice space for the marching band, and by others looking for a green space to connect with friends.