Food for Thought: Changing the World
Food for Thought: Changing the World In partnership with Vanderbilt University’s Office of Community, Neighborhood, and Government Relations, the Frist Center for
Just minutes from the Natchez Trace, Emerson Hart, lead singer of platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated band Tonic, resides in a farmhouse dating back two centuries. In the five years Hart has lived there, he’s dedicated personal time and attention to studying its history and preserving its past.
Known as the Pasquo House—because its original owner hailed from Pasquotank County, North Carolina—the residence was built between 1818 and 1828, surviving the Civil War, with blood stains from the Battle of Franklin in Hart’s foyer to prove it. Today, an upright piano sits on a square of flooring that served as the door to a hideout that kept families safe during Indian raids.
At the time that Hart purchased the home, it had fallen into disrepair, but the singer-songwriter set out to restore it to its former glory, with he and his wife, Heather, undertaking the majority of the renovations themselves. “It was a ton of work, and it’s a constant process, but the lineage of the home is just so stout, and there’s so much connected to it,” he says. The couple converted the garage into a spacious kitchen, now the central gathering place. The smoke house was transformed into a studio complete with a tracking room. In addition, the Harts recently added a porch, one of their favorite spaces to welcome the morning and close out the evening.
“I thought it would be really cool to always have a lineage of the home, to help preserve each owner and do one thing [as] our addition,” Hart shares. “The porch will be our little stamp [on the house].”
Although the home is filled with whispers of previous owners, it also bears the story of Hart’s family—past and present. Black and white photographs of his grandparents and other family members adorn the wall of the stairwell; meanwhile, colorful drawings from Lucie, his 6-year-old daughter, clutter the refrigerator doors. Every room is filled with family antiques. Hart built the kitchen table out of lumber scraps a neighbor was planning to discard. He and Heather were married beneath a pergola next to the house in 2012. Today, they often host outdoor dinners on their land.
The home has also given birth to Hart’s latest solo project, Beauty in Disrepair, a fitting name that mirrors not only his home renovation, but recent seasons in his personal life that saw the singer enduring a painful divorce, raising a young daughter, and falling in love again.
“I’ve written a lot of songs in this house,” he remarks. “There’s so much inspiration here. You don’t really run out of it. It’s a pretty deep well.”
Hart and his wife continue to make improvements to the house, noting it’s an ongoing process they enjoy. “I want to leave it in better shape than I found it,” Hart says. “We’re trying to make sure we always make the right choices for the house, and usually when we make the right choice for the house, it’s the right choice for us. Life here is peaceful, and life here is good. I’m very fortunate to be able to own a piece of history in this little town.”