A farmhouse that was in a dilapidated condition several years ago is now one of the premier wedding and celebration venues in East Tennessee.
Meadowbrook Farms, located at 1003 State Highway 113 between White Pine and Dandridge is one of the best kept secrets in the area.
Terry and Kathi Sellars bought the farm after Terry had been renting land on the 144-acre farm .
“Terry had rented this farm to put cattle on for years,” Kathi said. “I had driven by this house for 25 years and just thought, ‘Boy, I really would like to fix it up. It’s a shame to see it run down.’ You’d be surprised at how many people were thrilled that it didn’t get torn down.”
“We bought this farm about three years ago, not intending to go this route. We fixed this old house up, not intending to live here. We decided to use it for bridal and baby showers, receptions and so forth.
“The house dates back to 1882,” Sellars said. “This was the second house that was built here. The first house burned down. When we bought this farm, the house was really a shambles.”
Sellars said that when they replaced the roof on the house, they kept coming up with things to improve. “It just went from there,” she said. “We never found a place to stop. It just started coming alive and we just kept doing more.”
Following replacement of the roof, a front door from another house nearby was installed where there wasn’t one before.
“It just kind of took a different turn then,” she said. “We fixed the house up and there were some who needed a place to have a reception. It’s all one centrally-located thing.”
There was an old gentleman who did the coating and all of the trim work that changed the house from dull farm house to wowing wedding venue.
“When you look at the outside of the house, people think that it’s just an old farm house,” she said. “We didn’t want to rent it to anybody because then we couldn’t come or go as we pleased if we did that. We just thought we would open it where people could come and use it. It might help us. I didn’t foresee this happening, but it has,” she said.
“If you had seen all of this before, we’ve really done something different,” she said. “Then we tried to figure out what to do with it, because I wasn’t going to live here.
There’s not much furniture inside the house, but not because anyone has broken in.
“If you’re looking for the real McCoy, this is it because it’s an old farm,” Kathi said.
The floors in the house are original hardwood, except for the dining room.
“We tried to make it frilly for these brides,” she said.
All of the rooms are kept in the time period including chandeliers dating back to the 1800s in every room. The upstairs furniture also dates back to the 1800s.
“We let the bride and the bridal party use the house for the first look, it’s just up to each individual group. The unique thing about this house is no two weddings look alike,” she said. “When most brides come to me, they have an idea what they want. Here, you’re not limited.”
She said that each wedding at the farm has been different.
“They all showcase the bride’s personality, what she likes in her life,” Sellars said. “It’s been kind of neat doing this.”
The kitchen used to be the old back porch before renovation.
“It had a cistern in the floor,” she said. “We changed the windows, too.”
The basement is a round bricked cellar, something one doesn’t see much these days.
A cabin located just outside the house dates back to the 1700s, Sellars said.
“I’ve had one bride who is going to get married in the front of the cabin,” she said.
Rock located around the front of the house was obtained at a local quarry.
The barn was built more than 150 years ago and was used to house mules.
“My husband didn’t have a need for a mule barn, since he is a cattle farmer,” Kathi said. “We took the stables out of the mule barn, concreted the floors and installed bathrooms. Out of the stalls, we made farmhouse tables. That’s one of the perks for those who get married here. They get the old rustic thing and it’s the real deal.”
Kathi said that the barn was a big deal back in the early days. The barn has seating around the loft upstairs from the main floor.
“You can have about anything in the barn,” she said. “You can do it all here. If this can’t house a party, you need a gym. This is all old barn wood. We’re working on a kitchen in the rear. A caterer can pull up beside the barn and you’d never know the caterer is here.”
The loft can host 225 people comfortably. At a recent women’s retreat, the women were seated in the loft with vendors in the downstairs part of the barn.
“It was a pretty good deal,” she said. “We have all kinds of rustic stuff here. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is the real deal.”
“Right now, we’re just taking baby steps. That’s not why I’ve really not advertised much. We’ve had publicity because of the house because of it being historic. We’ve never put it out there as a place where people can come and do weddings. My customers have strictly been from word of mouth,” she said.
She has had people to ask if she would offer the house as a place to stay overnight, but she has not gotten that far yet.
“Each time we do something, I see something that I’d like to do differently, or something I’d like to add,” she said. “It’s just a growing thing. I keep moving and thinking of something else that can make this even nicer for a person.
“You don’t need much when you come here,” she said “We try to work with people when they come here. I’ve been allowing a bride and groom to make a down payment to reserve the date. As long as they put a deposit down to reserve the date and have it paid for the month before the wedding.
“When I first started doing this, the first girl who got married here had the same vision that I did. The barn floors were still dirt and her wedding was really pretty. This is the best kept secret. No one knows about this place except those who have been married here,” Kathi said.
Last year, Kathi did three weddings at the farm. This year, she has done much more.
“People come here and like it, just like I have,” she said. “I’ve been kind of hesitant to get it out there because I want to be able to do a good job with each one. I want to grow with it.