Restoration of Falcon Rest, McMinnville, Tenn., historic house museum


About the people who transformed a derelict into a destination

George and Charlien McGlothin spent 4-1/2 years restoring Falcon Rest Mansion, doing 95% of the work themselves.  They opened it to the public in 1993 as a historic tourist attraction.


George left a career in management to come back to his home town of McMinnville and restore Falcon Rest.  As school children who came for a tour reported in the local paper, “Mr. McGlothin loves his house.” He can tell stories about it at a mile a minute. That’s probably why Middle Tennessee’s Sunday Magazine described him as “a walking encyclopedia dressed in a tuxedo.”

In addition to starring in Falcon Rest’s three interactive, history-based group shows, George’s favorite pastimes are continuing the restoration of the mansion, buying for his Victorian Gift Shop, and learning everything he can about history.  In the last decade and a half, the man who couldn’t tell a tomato plant from a weed has become an expert landscaper, designing and maintaining Falcon Rest’s ever-developing gardens.

George’s wife Charlien took weekends and holidays off from her job as a NASA public affairs writer to help with the restoration. Since 1995, she’s devoted full time to serving as Falcon Rest’s general manager and master chef, and using her PR experience to get the word out about Falcon Rest — including developing this web site. She is also the official carpenter, and has a barn full of tools to prove it. 

After working on the restoration for over four years, and managing the property for 29, they’re still dedicated to creating a joyful experience for visitors from around the world.

Where history is fun

The Day that Changed our Lives

Read on for "the rest of the story" from our Victorian Gentleman

Did you ever have a day that completely changed the course of your life?

Mine came in March 1989.

That’s when I attended the auction of the old hospital building where my sister was born … out of curiosity … and ended up in the tourism business.

Accidental Career

We’d already restored two old houses, so when I showed up at my parents’ home in McMinnville, Tenn., and told them I was looking for local investment property, Mother asked, “Did you know they’re auctioning off the old hospital?” After all, it had been a magnificent Victorian mansion before being disguised as a medical facility in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Dad said: “Don’t tell him that. He might go buy it!”

I was intrigued enough to go look, and what I saw wasn’t encouraging. An aborted demolition of the hospital additions had left the back of the buildng looking like a bomb had hit it. Still, the mansion’s original beauty shone through.

Even more intrigued, I went to the auction. The hospital estate made the opening bid. I bid $50 more — just so I wouldn’t waste the trip — and nobody else said a word.

The next thing I heard was the auctioneer declaring, “Going once, going twice, SOLD to that sucker over there!” OK, maybe he didn’t say “sucker,” but given the magnitude of the restoration, he probably could have.

Mansion Restoration

We hired some folks to tear down the rest of the hospital additions and put on a new roof, but the long-suffering Victorian Lady and I literally did 95% of the restoration ourselves. I spent a year of my life under the mansion doing wiring and plumbing. When I started, I was handsome, had a full head of dark hair, and my sanity. Just look at me now!

After 4-1/2 years of plumbing, wiring, plastering, woodworking, and painting, we were ready to share Clay Faulkner’s resurrected mansion with the world. In 1997, the National Trust for Historic Preservation rewarded our efforts with a first place prize in their Great American Home Award competition.

Old-house lovers from all over the world have toured Falcon Rest. For many, the visit is extra special because they are not only meeting the owners; they are meeting the people who actually did the restoration.

It tells them there is hope for those wonderful old buildings out there, and that it doesn’t take the government or multi-million dollar grants to rescue them. Hopefully, we’re inspiring lots of other regular folks like us to become historical environmentalists, and recycle architectural treasures that would otherwise be lost.

“George and Charlien McGlothin are truly dedicated preservationists.
The Clay Faulkner home is the third old house they’ve restored.  This time, it took them 4-1/2 years.”

“The Best Restorations in America”
Bob Vila’s American Home Magazine

“You cannot help but marvel at this couple’s love for each other and their work ethics. George gets a gleam in his eye as he discusses his next project and you can tell he is excited about taking it on.

Michael – Trip Advisor