The History Of Emerald Hill
High on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Red and Cumberland rivers stands Emerald Hill — the home of Austin Peay State University's National Alumni Association.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Sites, the history of the antebellum mansion is as rich as the traditions of the University.
For generations, Emerald Hill was the home of the Henry family. During his lifetime, Gustavus Henry (1804-1880), an attorney and civic leader, served as a member of the Kentucky legislature and later as a member of the Tennessee Assembly. He became known as the "Eagle Orator of Tennessee" because of his power of oratory and persuasiveness in hours of crisis.
Successive generations held title to the home until Patrick Henry Cross became the last member of the Henry family to inherit it. Childless, he and his wife, the former Mary Frances Pennebaker, deeded the property to Austin Peay in 1966 with the understanding that it would continue to be known as Emerald Hill.
Over the years, the house has undergone three phases of construction: the original simple farmhouse of the 1820s; the improved Gothic structure of the late 1800s; and the addition of the neo-classical section in 1909.
Through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Pace; the Candlelight Ball Committee; the Montgomery County Alumni Chapter, Mr. and Mrs. John Wallace; the Trane Support Group; and many other alumni and friends, a year-long restoration and renovation of the historic building was completed in April 2002. Extensive interior and exterior repairs included foundation work, re-roofing, replacement windows, bathroom renovations, new plumbing and electrical wiring; complete heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; masonry restoration, drywall work and painting. The project also included the removal and replacement of the original portion of the house because of major structural damage and masonry deterioration that precluded its continued use.
The stately new entrance gates, completed in January 2000, honor the classes of 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974, and 1979. These classes designated their reunion gifts to the gate construction. The winding drive leading up to the mansion has been named Hollis Lane in memory of Ricky Hollis. Work on the drive was donated by Hollis and Hollis Trucking and McIntosh Paving.
The refurbished Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill continues to provide a safe, comfortable gathering place. Emerald Hill has always been a family home and it still will be--your home. The name given to the property by Gustavus A. Henry was appropriate: it was and still is an emerald hill.