A Gentleman's Country Estate
Iredell County, North Carolina
A Brief History, 1750-2011
William Allison (1741-1827) settled on the property known today as Allison Woods in the 1740's. The Allison's were of Scotch-Irish origin, coming from Pennsylvania along "The Great Wagon Road."
Apart from farming, the Allisons became involved in the tannery business (remains of Indian tanning activities still remain on the property in the form of a soapstone slab used at the Springhouse as a picnic table). Before the revolution, the Allisons were suppliers of saddles to the British Army.
Throughout their history, the Allisons were active and successful members of the community and in the mid-19th century moved to Statesville, leaving the farm business to a manager.
The buildings remaining today were created when Major William Locke Allison, father of present owner Thomas A. Allison, returned to the family land after a successful career as a railroad engineer and inventor in Pennsylvania.
No doubt he was inspired by the country estates and the kind of genteel country living he had observed and admired in the North. During the twenties he started to design and build the first building that would eventually become a unique collection of leisure abodes and gentleman famer's premises, set in a landscape combining natural and formal gardens with experimental agricultural products. He was well acquinted with the Vanderbilt's, and it is suspected that some of his landscaping ideas like the water gardens were influenced by his visits to Biltmore House. When he retired in 1929, Major Allison devoted all his efforts to "the Farm."
Major Allison had always believed in sharing his property with the public. Unfortunately his generosity was grossly abused and many of the buildings were vandalized after progressive age kept him away from Allison Woods. The buildings, gardens and orchards fell into neglect and never recovered the splendor of the twenties and thirties.
After his death in 1970 the property was divided between his two sons, Thomas A. Allison and William L. Allison. Thomas, the older son, inherited the tract with the historic site. Under his ownership the lower lake has been enlarged and now has two islands, the bigger one with a boat house. He also added an air strip and hangar.
All buldings created by Major Allison remain, some of them in good condition, others in need of restoration. Visitors today can view the two mills, New England style ice house, Tuscany style grotto, and horse stable (all of local granite), plus the smokehosue, corn crib, farrowing house, and a piggery that once served as a sawmill. No part of the original gardens, orchards and other landscaped areas remain intact, but sufficient vestiges exist to permit the reconstruction of the original layout and plantings.