The Gathering at Milton: Reviving a Historical Building for Today’s Get-Togethers

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The Gathering at Milton

The Gathering at Milton in Milton, Tennesssee; Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

On a cold, rainy day in February 2018, Phillip Vaught was the highest bidder on a dilapidated building in the tiny town of Milton, Tennessee. Later that day, when his wife, Alanna, walked into the structure formerly known as the Milton Country Store, all she could think was, “What have we done?”

A few years and lots of blood, sweat and tears later, the venue now known as The Gathering is proof that what was old can be new again.

Originally erected around 1900 and restored to its original glory by the Vaughts, the building is now a rustic, intimate setting for events and functions. Bright and airy, it has retained its country charm yet features a complete commercial kitchen and modern amenities for gatherings of up to 100 people.

See more: Historic Collinsville Offers Visitors a Peek Into the Past

Bygone Times

The building started life 118 years ago as the Milton Country Store. “Originally, it was just a big open store that sold lots of different things,” Alanna says. “They had a candy counter, sold canned goods and sliced meats wrapped in brown paper. It was a typical general store and meeting place for the community.” Through the years, an addition was built on for the sale of animal feeds.

In the 1940s, it became Cherry’s Grocery and then Manuel’s Cajun Country Restaurant through the early ’90s. After Manuel’s closed, the building housed several diners until it was shuttered for good. It then stood empty, decaying, and for sale for the next eight years.

In February 2018, an auction sign went up in front of the store. “I said to Phillip, jokingly, ‘They’re going to auction off the Milton Country Store. We ought to buy it,’” Alanna says. “Phillip said, ‘What the heck for?’ I wasn’t serious. In the shape it was in, I thought to myself they’d be lucky to give it away.”

The morning of the sale, Alanna, an agriculture professor at Middle Tennessee State University, was announcing a cattle show at the college when she received a phone call from Phillip, who was at the auction. “He said, ‘Do we want to get in?’ and I said, ‘Get into what?’” One successful bid later, the building belonged to the Vaughts.

Alanna and Phillip Vaught, along with their sons John Buyrl and Jess Michael, renovated a 118-year-old country store structure into an events venue called The Gathering at Milton; Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

A Passion Project

Once the shock of Phillip having bought the building settled in, the question was what to do with it. “I didn’t want a restaurant,” Alanna says, “but we wanted to completely restore it and return it to as original as we could to 1900.”

“We decided to open an event venue,” she continues. “I knew there were venues everywhere, but this would be small, quaint and intimate, and we were just minutes from Murfreesboro. I wanted to play on that and be affordable.”

The day they closed on the purchase, work started on the rehab. “The first thing we had to deal with was the front porch because it was about to fall into the street,” Alanna says.

Previous repairs proved to be the most substantial challenges in the renovation. “Things that had been patched over the years were the biggest problems,” Alanna says. “They were quick-fixed and hodge-podged. There was plumbing running along the ceiling and the electrical wiring was very dangerous.”

See more: History Lesson at the Tennessee River Museum

To keep the authenticity of the building, Phillip went on a mission to find matching wood and windows. “Phillip found old wood that matched the wood on the inside, the outside, even for the addition,” Alanna says. “We had custom windows made to match the originals. I wanted them to look exactly like they looked from pictures we had found of the building.”

All the glass across the front of the building is original, and the walls and ceilings in the main room are original tongue and groove. The former feed area became the prep and serving area, and the existing commercial kitchen from its diner days was upgraded with modern amenities.

The Gathering at Milton

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

If You Build It, They Will Come

The grand opening of The Gathering was the Milton Fall Market & Craft Fair, held in October 2018. “We spent months getting ready for that grand opening and we were down to the wire,” Alanna says.

The event continues to be a huge success and has drawn more than 2,000 attendees each year. This year’s fair, scheduled for Oct. 10, will host over 60 selected vendors and feature a wide array of homemade and locally made items from top craftspeople.

The Gathering’s successes continue with specialty functions such as a Mother’s Day Brunch, Sweetheart Sunday Lunch for Valentine’s Day, and a Supper and Storytelling Event. A fundraising event for the local 4-H even helped finance the club’s trip to a competition in Denver.

The Vaughts live on their 50-acre farm in Auburntown, where, in addition to Alanna’s work at MTSU and Phillip’s land-clearing business, they raise goats and sheep, and are parents to sons John Buyrl, 16, and Jess Michael, 4. The Gathering has become a natural addition to their overall endeavors. “The Gathering is rural tourism, which goes hand in hand with agritourism,” Alanna says.

Upon reflection, the family considers the restoration project to be one of their greatest accomplishments – although it was a challenging journey. “Looking back, both of us were exhausted because that building consumed us for a long time,” Alanna says. “It was a huge undertaking and very stressful. We never threw our hands in the air and said we were going to give up, but we questioned the decision constantly.”

Their perseverance and hard work paid off, however, and the result is a beautiful structure that blends modern uses with the original building’s spirit of community.

If You Go

The Gathering at Milton

Location: 12026 Milton St., Milton

Phone: (615) 653-6018


9/1/20 Update: Due to COVID-19, The Gathering’s Annual Milton Fall Market & Craft Fair has been canceled for 2020. Please check their website or social media for the most up-to-date information.

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