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Houses of High Grove? Stunning, and planned that way

The houses of High Grove are stunning. O.T. Marshall planned it that way.

The subdivision near Eastport in North Mississippi’s Tishomingo County promises to be one of the more unusual — and Marshall hopes more desirable — developments along the shores of Pickwick Lake. The Memphis architect purchased High Grove’s 25 acres 22 years ago: “I put a lot of time and thought into this,” says Marshall, principal in the firm that bears his name.

The name High Grove, however, belies little about the lakeside development where precipitous hills plunge down into the waters of Bear Creek, a scenic offshoot of Pickwick. The sprawling lake is a Tennessee Valley Authority impoundment of the Tennessee River that forms the boundary of Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east and Mississippi on the south side.

Along the Tennessee shoreline, especially the western end near Pickwick Dam and its electric-power generating station, is characterized by tall bluffs. Large, expensive homes have been perched atop and along those bluffs for about the past decade. Construction continues on the north shore, where smaller houses, condominiums and even apartments are found.

Alabama’s lakeside is in early stages of development. Mississippi, on the other hand, has been a destination for years; hundreds of camps, condos, houses, apartments and other dwellings dot the shoreline. Marinas and other commercial endeavors are also part of the shoreline landscape.

Few of them approach the edginess of High Grove, however. Two houses — one of them Marshall’s modernistic dream home — are nearing completion (the second is a Memphis physician’s home-away-from-home and is quite striking in its own, more conventional, right).

The three-story Marshall home, which the owner expects to name at some point in the future, is a masterful blend of functionality and appearance. It features a sweeping, rounded standing-seam galvanized aluminum roof, the seams of which radiate out from a center point at the pinnacle.

Standing on the steep hill above the house and its nearly cobalt blue roof, Marshall explains, “We tried to match the roof color to be compatible with the water and sky.”

The two-foot-wide fascia around the house is made from cypress boards stacked edge to edge. In the longest span above the home’s entry side, a 100-foot-long, 5/8-inch-thick and 12-inch-wide steel flitch plate anchors the ends of the rafters and is covered by the cypress.

“We had to use engineered rafters, LVL or laminated veneered lumber, because some of them are 64-68 feet long,” says Alan Barner, project manager and a member of the Marshall firm.

“We also used $3,000 worth of 5/8-inch bolts in here,” states Danny Bray, Corinth-based contractor and builder of the house. Bray says the foundation work, seemingly a formidable and complex task to anchor a home on the steep slope, was actually quite simple, accomplished with excavation and pouring of concrete footings.

A structural engineer was consulted for the foundation work. Bray says some rock complicated the excavation but it was not a major impediment.

From the water, the Marshall home makes a remarkable statement. It almost completely fills the 80-foot-wide water frontage of the lot, common frontage for High Grove lots. A deck the length of the house is backed by the full glass wall of the living room. A second, lower deck supported by tapered stone columns offers privacy nearer the lake.

Native gray limestone was chosen for the home’s exterior, but Marshall says the plain color of the rock didn’t make much of a statement to him, so he instructed stone masons to apply a French-style partial coat of mortar over the stone; some is exposed, while some is covered.

Barner says the High Grove development is served by a private septic system, an engineering feat in itself that demanded each home be equipped with grinder and lift pump.

Marshall says the development comprises 20 waterfront lots and 20 hillside lots that feature dynamic water views. They are priced from $85,000 to $345,000.

“This is probably the most unique project I’ve ever worked,” declares Barner. “I look forward to doing more of these things out here.”

Already, there are at least two more homes slated for construction on the High Grove waterfront. Eventual amenities will include a multiple-vessel boat dock and other waterfront features.

Gary Matthews, executive director of Tishomingo County Development Foundation and Tishomingo County Economic Development Authority, is all smiles when it comes to High Grove and similar developments in his territory.

“I think many of these houses start as second homes, but (the owners) move from the city and make these their main homes,” says Matthews.

“Response has been good out here,” says Marshall.


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