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The House itself has had a vibrant past. It stands on the site of the old Fort Sanders where, on November 29, 1863, in a bitter cold winter, Union General Ambrose Burnside defended the city of Knoxville from the attack of Confederate General James Longstreet.
Forty years later, the land was obtained by Dr. William Waller Carson, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War. Dr. Carson was a professor of mathematics at the University of Tennessee and founder of the chair of civil engineering at the University. In 1903, during the beginning construction of the house, the builders had to fill in the trenches used by the soldiers.
Upon completion in 1906, the original three-story house had columns in the front and an open porch on the side of the house. The house also contained gas, electric lights, and a telephone, which were not commonplace at that time.
The large home was used by Professor Carson not only to house his four children, but also to rent rooms to U.T. Students.
In 1943 and 1944, the house was used by Patty Burkhart as the Patty Ellen Nursing home.
In the mid 1940’s, the house was purchased by Benjamin Ogle as an investment. The government leased and subdivided the house into apartments to accommodate the Oak Ridge Manhattan Project workers to keep them close and prevent security leaks.
After the war, the house was rented out mostly to University of Tennessee students. In the more recent years, the house became more commonly known in the U.T. area as the Theater House, because of the high concentration of theater majors living here.
On April 1, 1983, the house was purchased by Children’s Family House of East Tennessee, Inc., to be used as the Ronald McDonald House.