For now, we will focus on the early history of the house and it's builder. Newton was a farmer, and for the most part his land produced wheat and corn. Operations were rather small, and he possessed at most seven slaves at one time. In addition to his farming activities, Newton was a business and civic-minded man. He was a member of the Mulberry chapter of the Free Masons, served as a delegate to the Whig Party in 1852, served on the board for the Central Union Railroad, and helped establish the Bank of Shelbyville. His house shows his economic and social standings very well, in terms of architectural styles. It is a blend of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles and was constructed around 1850. The large front pediment, wide cornice line, and white columns are typical indicators of the Greek Revival. However, the brackets located under the cornice line are more indicative of the Italianate design. Nonetheless, this house is rather high style for a provincial estate. But, it is a far cry from the great mansions of the time found in places like Columbia and Nashville. The use of the I-house design is one example of where this stylistically academic house meets the vernacular. Moreover, the use of square columns rather than round exemplifies the need to "cut corners" and save on construction expenses. Regardless of the intermingling of styles, this house is an important element in understanding the middle class in early America.
|Newton Whitaker House, c. 1850|