One must drive slowly through Ridgetop and it is important to allow time to think of the years when this was a resort community.
Many of the summer homes still exist.
At the top of the Ridge, just as the road heads toward Nashville, there is a hill on the right. It once held one of these imposing homes. The Edmund Baxter Mansion, however, is no longer there.
Baxter himself was quite a person. A veteran of the Civil War, he had fought for the Confederacy at Shiloh. He was a Captain of Artillery.
When the war ended, Baxter practiced law. Focusing on railroad and interstate commerce, he eventually became the principal lawyer for the L&N Railroad in Tennessee.
Judge Baxter carried cases to the U.S. Supreme Court and he represented several other railroads and shipping companies.
At Vanderbilt Law School, he was “professor of law of evidence, pleading and procedure.” He was also the Dean of the Department of Law at one time.
Baxter’s mansion at the top of Coggins Hill was built in the 1890’s.
Judge Edmund Dillahunty Baxter lived there until his death on June 12, 1910. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.
In April, 1913, the mansion became the Watauga Sanitarium. Several Nashville doctors together purchased the house, which was used for treating patients suffering from tuberculosis. Several individual bungalows were also available.
Dr. Charles A. Robertson was the founder of Watauga Sanitarium. Its purpose was to “establish a high-class private institution for the care and treatment of the many and varied manifestations of the tuberculosis disease.”
Dr. W.S. Rude had been educated at Vanderbilt and became the manager and chief physician. He was at the sanitarium for 25 years.
He would later become mayor of Ridgetop for 20 years and was in office when Ridgetop Lake was built in 1938.
There were 25 beds at Watauga Sanitarium and there was pure air, nutritious food and a strict following of regulations. A 200-acre farm provided fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh milk.
The facility closed on May 15, 1941 and the main building became the Ridgetop Dinner Club. Brochures advertized it as having a “Country Club atmosphere of fine food and glowing hospitality.”
The Dinner Club – the night club – was openly condemned by churches in the area. Gambling activities were no secret.
Because it was on the Davidson County-Robertson County line, law enforcement was puzzled as to who had the jurisdiction and much was “let slide.”
On Oct. 18, 1955, fire departments from Goodlettsville and Montague-Madison responded to the fire that destroyed the Ridgetop Dinner Club. The loss was set at $100,000.
The mansion-sanitarium-dinner club was gone.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.