Cumberland Homesteads – Crossville TN


“Cumberland Homesteads is a community located in Cumberland County, Tennessee, United States. Established by the New Deal-era Division of Subsistence Homesteads in 1934, the community was envisioned by federal planners as a model of cooperative living for the region’s distressed farmers, coal miners, and factory workers. While the cooperative experiment failed and the federal government withdrew from the project in the 1940s, the Homesteads community nevertheless survived. In 1988, several hundred of the community’s original houses and other buildings, which are characterized by the native “crab orchard” sandstone used in their construction, were added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district…

Cumberland County farm agent Robert Lyons led a local committee that drew up a proposal for a homestead community, which it submitted to the Division of Subsistence Hometeads in December 1933. Lyons had likely been influenced by earlier Plateau-area “back to the land” experiments, such as the Clifty Consolidated Coal Company’s 1917 program that helped Fentress County miners purchase small farms,[4] as well as relief efforts provided by local Quakers.[5] Due in part to the influence of Tennessee Valley Authority chairman and cooperative living proponent Arthur Morgan, the Division of Subsistence Homesteads accepted the Cumberland County proposal in January 1934. Over 20,000 acres (81 km2) of land south of Crossville were purchased from the Missouri Land Company, and Cumberland Homesteads, Inc., was created to administer the project.[4]

The Civil Works Administration immediately hired several hundred locals to prepare the newly-acquired land, providing wages that effectively ended the Great Depression in Cumberland County. Of the initial 233 families selected for the Cumberland Homesteads project, 30% were distressed farmers, 30% were unemployed miners, 30% were unemployed textile workers, and 10% were struggling professionals (including teachers, nurses, and a doctor).[6] Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) architect William Macy Stanton, who designed a number of buildings in TVA’s planned city of Norris, drew up basic designs for houses and other buildings at the Homesteads.[5] The Civilian Conservation Corps built recreational buildings and a small lake for the community at what is now Cumberland Mountain State Park. By late 1934, the community’s first stone houses had been completed…

Buildings at Cumberland Homesteads were constructed using primarily a locally-quarried sandstone known as “crab orchard” stone, which is known for its durability and reddish hue in late afternoon sunlight. The most notable building in Cumberland Homesteads is the Homesteads Tower, a cross-shaped building centered around an eight-story octagonal water tower. This building originally housed the Homesteads offices, and is now home to the Homesteads Tower Museum. The elementary school and high school, located behind the Homesteads Tower, consist of unique pod-style designs, with detached classrooms and workshops connected by covered walkways. Both school complexes are now part of Homestead Elementary School. The cannery and hosiery mill have both been modified to the extent that they are not considered contributing properties to the historic district, although their respective water towers are considered contributing structures.[2]

Most of the original 251 houses are still standing…

The Cumberland Homesteads Historic District includes several structures at Cumberland Mountain State Park, including Byrd Creek Dam, Millhouse Lodge (originally a gristmill designed by Quakers), several rustic cabins, and a stone water tower. Byrd Creek Dam is the largest masonry structure ever built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.[9] Two stone arch bridges, one along Deep Draw Road and one along Old Mail Road, are listed as contributing structures within the district.”


Source notes

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Deep Draw Road
Crossville, TN 38555

Coordinates: 35.906111, -84.982778

One comment on “Cumberland Homesteads – Crossville TN

  1. Kim Headlee

    Grew up loving the crab orchard stone homes but never learned their history till I visited the New Deal Community in Palmer Alaska-so interesting

Leave a Reply

Before leaving a comment, please note:

  • Comments allow viewers to share information with others or alert us to errors or changes in a New Deal site.
  • We are not involved in the management of New Deal sites and have no information about visits, hours or rentals.
  • This page shows all the information we have for this site; if you have new information or photos to share, click below.


We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.