Wednesday, June 1, 2011

She Had No Running Water

Late Monday night we received this e-mail. It has been edited for length and to remove names and identifying data.

I ran into ***** last night. I had heard he didn't care for the current Sweetwater crowd, so I made it a point to ask him about it. I also had seen his name in your blog so I know you think he's truthful. He said quite a bit, but the most shocking was about Lettie Region, the caretaker.

When he first met her (don't know how long she'd been at the Weeden Home at that time) she didn't have an indoor bathroom or running water. He contacted ***** who owned ***** Plumbing Company who installed a small bathroom at no cost. I would have thought living this way would have been against some Florence or health dept. regulation. I have read in "Ripples"* about the owner's home in Atlanta. How could she let Miss Region live without running water?

We don't know how long Emmer Lettie Region lived at Sweetwater before a benefactor provided her with running water and a bathroom. However long it was, it was too long. According to Miss Region's 2004 obituary, she had no surviving parent, spouse, or child. For whatever reason, she chose to live on her own at Sweetwater. No one forced her to take the job or remain there once she discovered the conditions that permeated the old house.

We've heard it said it's all in what you get used to, and apparently Miss Region was used to the conditions at Sweetwater, making do with what she had at hand, making do with no water, air conditioning, or adequate heat. Supposedly the 24 ft. by 24 ft. rooms have 12 ft. ceilings. We can only imagine how far space heaters would go in heating an area that large.

Did owner Susan Leigh Smithson pay Miss Region any actual salary in addition to a roof over her head? The answer to that question may be lost in time...or Miss Region's surviving family in Rogersville may have answers to this and other questions. No new caretaker took Miss Region's place after her death.

Why was there no water in the home? The house was certainly built before indoor plumbing was standard and had stood vacant for many years (at least five) before being purchased by Smithson. At least for the Weedens, the lack of adequate plumbing could have been grandfathered in.

How did Smithson circumvent any building department requirements to provide a bathroom with running water for her full-time caretaker? It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Miss Region was so fearful of losing her only home that she convinced any inspector she was present only during daytime hours.

It's also possible that Florence building inspectors had no idea anyone was living at the mansion. The current tax value of the eight room house is only 10K. No, that wasn't a typo, the once grand old home is currently so dilapidated that county appraisers consider that a fair value, or at least an appropriate one before renovations began 18 months ago.

How much has been accomplished in the past year and a half? Here's a link to some very telling photographs:

Sweetwater is Worth What?

Inside Sweetwater

The photographs in the above blogs were taken April 23rd, or five weeks ago. It's obviously not quite ready for the proposed June 2011 opening of a bed and breakfast...the bed springs out back are a nice touch though...

* Ripples from Sweetwater Mansion