Elisabeth Martin, Campus Carrier Features Editor
Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier Asst. Features Editor
Greg Mason lives in a small green cottage that is just a short walk from the House o’ Dreams. The property is located at the top of Lavender Mountain and Mason is able to view the Chattanooga mountains that peak over the skyline while he maintains the yard.
“Every day, there’s something to do up here,” Mason said. “Me and my students stay busy. Whether it’s inside the house, inside the tower, in the restrooms, or on the grounds, we’re around. We enjoy it up here.”
As a caretaker, Mason’s day begins at 7:00 a.m.
“We get up and start watering the hanging baskets and all of the things that take a lot of water,” Mason said. “That takes a while — there’s a lot of watering to do. We start with watering because it’s still not too hot outside.”
Mason and his team do many things to keep the gardens in good shape. The property has 10 to 12 student workers who assist Mason with daily tasks such as leaf-blowing, weed-whacking and lawn-mowing.
“Over the years, I have found the plants that the deer really don’t like,” Mason said. “They usually gnaw everything down, so I’ve had to find things they stay away from.”
Additionally, Mason tends to a pond that contains over 20 koi fish. If there are any problems with the pond, Mason and his team step in to ensure that the fish survive.
“Last winter, it got so cold that the side and bottom wall started cracking,” Mason said. “It drained probably 70 percent of the water out. We had to get in there with sledgehammers and bust up the ice and get it all out so that we could work on the side walls.”
Mason’s work is not exclusively in outdoors, though. He is also in charge of maintaining indoor projects.
“We maintain the restrooms,” Mason said. “It seems like every year they are used more and more often. More and more people know there is a restroom up here, so we have more hikers and visitors come up.”
One of the indoor jobs includes access to the inside of the House o’ Dreams. Mason said his job is to keep everything clean and in good shape. For this reason, he said he knows every corner of the house, including the location of hidden objects.
“One thing the [female students] used to do before they graduated was write love notes and hide them behind picture frames and in books,” Mason said. “It was a tradition to hide a letter and come back in 20 years and find it to show their husband. Hopefully it’s the same guy! I don’t read them, I just find them and let them be.”
When Mason first began working at the House o’ Dreams, there were only a few fruit trees. Now, the fruit is abundant.
“When hikers come up, they’re welcome to try a fruit, like an apple or a peach, to see what it tastes like,” Mason said.
Mason said there are many perks of being the caretaker to a place like the
House o’ Dreams. These include making jelly out of the plums, peaches and pears that grow from the trees, having morning coffee in the screened-in porch looking over the mountains and even watching storms.
“When it’s thundering, we raise the bay doors [in the warehouse] where we have a couch,” Mason said. “The students sit on the couch with popcorn and Cokes and we watch lightning hit that rod at the top of the tower. I wish I had a video.”
Some days are harder than others at the House o’ Dreams. Mason said that from time to time, there is flooding because of leaves that have built up in the ditches, and he and the students must clear them out.
Even in late November, as the weather gets cold, the team must work to fertilize the grass. After strong storms, they examine the 2.5 mile road that leads up to the House o’ Dreams and clear any trees that may have fallen.
“I enjoy working outside, working with plants, and making everything look beautiful,” Mason said. “Thank goodness for students to help out too— it’s a big one-man job.”
When Mason is not working to maintain the House o’ Dreams, he is spending time with his wife, his chickens or his three cats.
“It’s a privilege to come up here, to work up here, and see what Martha Berry left for us. It’s a great place to enjoy. I hope people bring their children and their grandchildren in the future.”