Tennessee Modernism: House by (and for) Stapleton Long

Structure: Stapleton Long Residence
Location: Morristown, Tennessee
Architect: Stapleton Long
Date: 1964
Story: Today’s house is something you don’t quite expect to discover in a small down in East Tennessee.

I’ll save the wonderful story for after the photos, let’s look at this incredible space!

STORY TIME!

Stapleton “Stape” Long

The year is 1944. The place is central Virginia. A young man named Stapleton “Stape” Long was on leave from the navy. Stopping off at a soda shop, Stape was introduced to a college student named Jane. Two years later, they were married.

I’ve gotta say, no one meets their true love in soda shops anymore and I think the world is worse off because of that fact. Bring back soda shops!

Jane Long

After she graduated with a teaching degree, Jane taught elementary school while Stape finished up his architecture degree at the University of Virginia (UVA).

The couple (now with two daughters in tow) moved to Morristown in 1964. Stape had been offered the position of chief designer at the Berkline Furniture company, a chair manufacturer headquartered in Morristown, Tennessee. It was later that year that Stape got to work designing the family’s house (pictured above).

While getting his degree at UVA, Stape was mesmerized by the serpentine walls which were present on the campus. You can see his homage to the serpentine walls in the construction of his own house (below).

Stape was quite a creative fellow. While at Berkline he designed a couple of unique chair prototypes that were out of this world. One of the chairs was called the “Year 2000 Chair”, and it featured a telephone, a sun lamp, a television, a massager and a a hair dryer (among other “features”). The other chair I found reference to was called the “Futurama Chair”, a space-blue recliner with an automated switch on the arm that would bring up a glass “bubble” (like an astronaut helmet) and place it over the chair’s occupant.

A 1960s Berkline Furniture ad

One interesting anecdote about Long, though, is that he at one point he helped Fowler Bros (a furniture store in Knoxville, Tennessee) design its street-facing furniture showroom…apparently the man could design both chairs and architecture.

Berkline looks like a company that was always pulling stunts to get in the paper!

In 1989, after 35 years at Berkline, Stape retired, spending his free time sketching, painting, and woodworking.

Stape poses proudly with his painting “Bell Towers of Morristown”, a painting which won a local Morristown poster competition

Editor’s note: the current owners of the home seem to think that Stape got an assist designing his house. They seem to recall him working with a Knoxville firm on the design, however the firm is unknown. If that ends up being the case, have no fear, I’ll track down who it was at some point.

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