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VIP At Home: Stone at 550 E. Main St.

Story by Sadie Fowler | Photos by Erin Kosko

Who would want to move to downtown Murfreesboro, Tennessee to take on the massive undertaking of renovating a dated, huge and empty house standing for sale? The mere thought of it sounds like a chore only a very special and select person might want or be able to tackle.

It wasn’t a project for the faint of heart. A project like this would require resources, patience and pure love for the downtown area.

One would imagine the ideal person for the restoration of 550 E. Main Street might be a Murfreesboro native with a deep desire to live downtown. Perhaps a growing family who needed a large home and had a lot of time and spare money on their hands to undergo the long journey? Certainly not a Denver native who travels all the time — literally, as a commercial pilot.

Ken Stone might not be a Murfreesboro native nor necessarily need a large home for a growing family, but he was definitely the man for the job and he knew it as soon as he stepped foot inside 550 E. Main St. After seeing it listed on Zillow, Stone called listing agent Glenn Strode, whom met him there the next day. It didn’t take long for the words “sold” to echo through the halls of the iconic downtown fixture.

Despite the house needing a great deal of work, Stone saw the home’s potential right away. “We walked through the home and I figured it out pretty quickly,” said Stone, in a quiet yet confident voice. “I think I was the guy for this one.”

Stone also knew back then that the home, built in 1890 by the Lytle family, had a purpose beyond serving as his personal nest — and, now that renovations are complete, he wants to share it with the local community, neighbors and friends.

Stone’s story is as interesting as the home’s and the makeover it has received. A commercial pilot for 30 years, Stone first moved to Murfreesboro many years ago from Denver to attend college at Middle Tennessee State University.

“It was as far away from Denver I could go and still get the degree I wanted,” he laughed. “Now, I’m a guy happily returning to Murfreesboro after sending my youngest daughter off to college … I’ve always felt the pull to return.”

After graduating from MTSU, Stone worked as a police officer in Murfreesboro followed by serving active duty as a United States Air Force Special Operations pilot before becoming a commercial pilot. Even though life took him away from Murfreesboro, he is quick to call the time he spent here as a young man as one of his favorite stages of life. He’s especially grateful to the relationships he built back then while a police officer and is looking forward to giving back to the community that gave him his start in life.

After leaving Murfreesboro to build his career, Stone also built a family, which includes three daughters who are now grown. He and his late wife chose to raise their children in Smyrna, Tennessee, where she was a native, from 1989 until 2013. At that time, following his wife’s passing, Stone looked toward Brentwood as the location for his youngest daughter to finish out her high school years.

Following that, Stone looked toward the next phase of his life and with help from his daughters, Murfreesboro made the short list. Jen, the youngest daughter, already had connections to the area due to her passion for dance and both father and daughter agreed a drive through downtown to look at local real estate might be a good idea.

“She and I are exceptionally close,” he said. “She can confidently speak for me, and does so often, and she’s never wrong.”

Jen and her father were driving around downtown Murfreesboro and both were impressed with what they saw.

“I was led to be interested in this house by the casual suggestion of my then 16-year-old daughter,” he said. “She, in essence, picked it out for me. She also made several pertinent design modifications. Initially, I was a little put off by her statements as to what we would be doing. I learned to trust her instinct. She’s been absolutely correct in each recommendation.”

Jen has been incredibly insightful along the journey of restoring the home, often times more so than Stone himself. His other daughters, Lauren Schmitt and Sarah Powers, have played their roles as well. Lauren is a designer and property manager in Nashville and her expertise came in handy throughout the project as well.

“My daughter Sarah wisely made a bathroom layout suggestion that makes it much more enticing,” he said. “Lauren, my oldest, has worked tirelessly to ensure color, design, and décor have blended into a tremendous result and I can’t thank her enough.

My children have invested themselves in my home. I hope they’ll spend many days here enjoying it with me. “I find living in the downtown area so appealing. I enjoy getting to know my neighbors and walking to restaurants and retailers for most any need I have. Strolling the three-lined streets among the stately homes from generations ago is a real treat.”

Stone officially moved into the home just before Christmas last year. As he reflects on the two and-a-half year journey to make the old house the home it is today, there’s no doubt in his mind he made the right decision.

Stone says there is a book that addresses the history of the Lytle home, which he’s looking forward to reading once its unpacked from its box and secure in its permanent place on a coffee table or bookshelf.

In the meantime, he is happy and able to share a lot about what he learned during the complete renovation project, which he managed from start to finish.

Once the scope of the work became obvious, Steve James of James and Associates Architects and Bill Shaw of Shaw Construction were sought out to plan and execute the work.

“Steve’s plans were spot on with my desires for the project and apparently, that of the Historical Committee of Murfreesboro,” he said. “Bill has gone so far beyond what I could have dreamt.

Everything, and I mean everything, has been done right with meticulous attention to detail.” Shaw and his team of artisans were able to transform the tired old property into a spectacular home for both Stone and Jen, who is now a sophomore in college and looking forward to her first summer in the new home.

“Best of all, we all become friends, which I value even more highly,” he said. “I’ve been able to affirm the value of finding and trusting people of integrity. Using Shaw Construction has been a true blessing.”

Throughout the entire process, Stone says he was patiently taught by dozens of construction professionals.

“I appreciate their kindness with my seemingly endless questions and pursuit of getting it just right,” he said. “It’s astounding how much time consuming it is to do such a project. We’ve jokingly referred to the house as a Vidalia, no telling what we’d find under each layer.”

The renovation project was lengthy, which was trying for Stone’s level of patience. On an interesting note, he says there were several items discovered during the work, such as a 1905-quarter, color-bynumber Monet-copy painting that was hidden in a wall, the original cistern, tubing for the gas lighting, a marker from the carriage block, and an eight-person hot tub languishing beneath the deck. All but one of the items were retained.

Offering advice to anyone thinking about undergoing a renovation project on a grand scale, Stone’s words of wisdom are simple and cautionary.

“To tackle a job of this scale, one must be generous with one’s time and resources,” he said. “Shortcut either and you’d be better off passing on the attempt … Plan for extras; all the extra will find a use, and make the home more enjoyable,” he said. “When decorating, make sure the items you include in your home are meaningful to you. They’ll bring joy when you see them.”

Since moving in, Stone is indeed enjoying new discoveries, whether about the home or the area itself. He’s looking forward to the future and fully understands what he feels is his duty to share such a home as 550 E. Main St.

“I look forward to it serving as a site for fundraisers, group meetings, and people from far and wide staying here,” he said. “It’s truly a special place. I hope others will enjoy it.”

At the moment, day-to-day life varies greatly for Stone, but he’s already jumped into the community with both feet. Though he travels a lot, while home he is enjoying the many opportunities to connect with others via service.

He serves on the board of Coaching Life Matters, an organization dedicated to assisting those trapped by false beliefs about themselves. He also attends The Experience Community Church and frequently meets friends for dinner or coffee.

“I’m eager for upcoming phases of life in this wonderful place,” he said. “The time spent with family and friends, writing and investing time in the community head the list.”

In summarizing the story of how the Stone family came to meet their fate at 550 E. Main St., Stone ponders the simple question of “why” a little further. Why the house? Why Murfreesboro? Why such a project?

“Why would I spend so much of what I valued — time and money — on something old and in poor condition with plenty of scars?” he said. “In short, that’s been done for me. I’m thankful beyond words.”

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