The Story of Morningside
The history of RT Lodge begins in 1932 with the arrival of Susan Wiley Cooper Walker to Maryville from her native Pennsylvania. Mrs. Walker relocated to Tennessee to be near her sister, who was married to the Maryville College Chaplain.
After seeing her sister’s home located in the woods adjacent to Maryville College, Mrs. Walker decided she wanted her own residence in the beautiful setting of the woods as well. She persuaded the administration to allow her to build on the property, as long as she willed the home to the college upon her death.
She named the 26-room home “Morningside” after the community she previously lived in. She found the quiet surrounds of her new home the perfect location for her naturalist lifestyle, and the residence and gardens stand today as a testament to her love for natural beauty and gracious hospitality.
As the widow of a partner of Andrew Carnegie, Mrs. Walker had great welat at her disposal. In the eighteen years she lived after coming to Maryville, she entertained regularly at Morningside, her new home. Her guests included Maryville’s “society” as well as people from rest homes and children from the Children’s Home. The rich and poor, the old and young were welcomed to drop in for a visit. Mrs. Walker, often seated in the “gossip room” a the stair landing, with tea and cookies waiting, enjoyed all who came.
Mrs. Walker transformed the area around Morningside. Her azalea gardens had many visitors each spring. She planned and assisted withe the development of the amphitheater and the seven-acre botanical garden. She built a guesthouse, established two picnic areas, and planted trees, especially magnolias on the campus and grounds.
Life at Morningside agreed favorably with Mrs. Walker who lived late into her 98th year. Upon her passing the house was donated to Maryville College and for many years serves as the residence for the college president. In later years the porperty was leased and operated as a restaurant and special event designation named Morningside Inn.
In 1997, Ruby Tuesday, Inc. acquired Morningside and developed the property as a corporate retreat, restoring the grounds and residence to its present grandeur and adding two additional buildings for guest accommodations. You will see that even today, RT Lodge is still surrounded by the natural setting where Mrs. Walker made her home. The 100 acres of Maryville College woods offers guests of the Lodge a secluded and pastoral experience with gardens, walking trails, streams and meadows just steps from the front door.