Jillian Rael

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

John F. Kvach

Committee Member

Molly W. Johnson

Committee Member

Stephen P. Waring


Whitaker family., Identity (Psychology), Domestic architecture--Tennessee., Lincoln County (Tenn.)--History--19th century., Southern States--Economic conditions--19th century., Southern States--Social conditions--19th century.


"The Center of His Existence: Domestic Architecture & Class Identity in Nineteenth-Century Lincoln County, Tennessee" presents the Whitaker family of Lincoln County, Tennessee as an example of a middle class forming in the rural South during the Antebellum period. In showing the family's interests in economic diversity in the fields of agriculture and industry, religious involvement, and Northern-style progress, this thesis makes the case for a wider class-identity taking shape in provincial areas of the South. Moreover, it shows that the originating culture of the Whitaker family impacted their migration patterns and shaped the culture of their final location of choice. Finally, it argues that architectural expression, particularly pertaining to the family home, should be considered a primary source in considering how past peoples viewed their own socio-economic standing within their time and place. In the case of Newton Whitaker, whose home is under examination here, the blending of high style and vernacular variations overlaid upon the common I-house design stands to show that he saw himself somewhere in the middle of the economic and social stratum. Locally, other houses show a similar mentality, particularly the home of Alexander Greer, a man of similar age, lineage, and upbringing. This thesis shows that although class-identity takes years to fully form, one's beliefs, values, and place in their local community is revealed through their choice in artistic expression, namely the family home, a place where all the community sees a reflection of its owner in its design and style.



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