Kennedy: A Brainerd house was once billed as the “Push-A-Button Palace”

Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / Ron Littlefield, right, and his wife, Lanis, pose inside their home in Glendon Place in Brainerd on Wednesday. The Littlefields have lived in the home for 52 years.

Sometimes, when it comes to buying a house, it's love at first sight.

For Ron and Lanis Littlefield, the 1920s-era Dutch Colonial house in Brained was the couple's dream abode from the first time they saw it.

"We would drive through neighborhoods and dream of houses that we might want to own," Ron Littlefield said. "This house was always at the top of Lanis' list."

Then, one day in 1971, a "for sale" sign appeared in the front yard, and the Littlefields pounced.

"We came, we looked at the house, and we wrote a full-price offer on the spot," Lanis Littlefield remembered of the day the couple contracted to buy the house.

The purchase price was $22,650.

Another couple was scheduled to view the home after the Littlefields, but they never made it out of their car, Lanis recalled with a smile.

Through rearing two boys, Ron's stint as mayor of Chattanooga, and now as they settle into their golden years, the house has been the Littlefield's home for more than five decades. (They've known one another since elementary school and got married while they attended Auburn University.)

"We'll live here forever," Lanis said during an interview at the Glendon Place home last week.

They've already begun imagining how they can turn a first-floor space into a bedroom and install a walk-in shower if they ever have trouble negotiating the stairs. All three existing bedrooms are on the second floor.

It was not until the Littlefields had been in the home for about a decade that they discovered something amazing about the property. A friend left some copies of old newspaper ads and articles in their mailbox.

When it was built in 1926-27, the Littlefields learned, the house had been dubbed the "Push-A-Button Palace," a name used to promote a big, open-house event that drew 1,500 visitors. Years before Zillow, attending open houses in the 20th century was something of a middle-class sport, like badminton or croquet.

For weeks leading up to July 1927, the home had been featured in newspaper ads designed to draw visitors to Brainerd, which was not then part of Chattanooga. They were enticed with door prizes valued at $500 each day of the event. The home was being heralded by the Electric League of Chattanooga, an arm of the local electric utility at the time. It was framed as the epitome of a home designed to take full advantage of electric appliances.

One ad read: "The home is purely an educational exhibit to show the public, by actual display, how much electricity can add to the comfort and convenience of the modern home."

Built in the years just before the Great Depression the development of Brainerd subdivisions had just begun. The Glendon Place neighborhood, which would eventually contain about 70 houses, was described as "posh" in old press clippings. Indeed, in one '20s-era example, a lot sold for $4,000 and the house within its confines was build for the sum of $20,000.

Only a handful of houses were built in Glendon Place before the Depression, and there's a gap of about seven years from 1927-1934 when few, if any, houses were built in the neighborhood.

The Littlefields said they aren't aware of any whiz-bang electric features in the "Push-A-Button Palace."

When they moved in, it still had a fuse box instead of breakers, and the wiring in the garage had old-fashioned knob-and-tube wiring, a sign the whole house was probably wired that way in the beginning.

Today, the Glendon Place neighborhood is thriving. Recently, a house sold for $25,000 over asking price the former mayor said.

"A lot of young people have moved in," Lanis added. "They have the energy to improve these old houses."

Contact Mark Kennedy at [email protected] or 423-757-6645.

  photo  Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / Ron Littlefield, left, and his wife, Lanis, pose outside their home in Glendon Place in Brainerd on Wednesday. The Littlefields have lived in the home for 52 years.