A Rare find on the Little Tennessee River

This spacious, stunning French country estate is ready for new owners in the award-winning Rarity Bay community.

After semi-retiring, Jim Blankemeyer and his wife, Carolyn, moved from Ohio to Tennessee, a geographical compromise between South Carolina, Georgia and Ohio, where their children and grandchildren live. It was time for a change, to leave the corporate world behind and devote themselves full time to family and faith.

“Knoxville was in the center of everyone, and we didn’t want to move to Florida because we wanted three seasons,” Jim says.

“Four seasons, dear,” Carolyn says, and the two laugh.

Now in their 80s, the couple has enjoyed a blessed life together, grounded in their mission to raise a family and make a difference in the world. Building their luxury home at Rarity Bay 12 years ago was part of that mission. Not only was the 9,500-square-foot French country estate a gathering place for their nine adult children and 30 grandchildren, but it also served as an event space for fundraisers and parties.

“The main floor is very open, so the kitchen and family room was ideal for everyone to gather,” Carolyn says. “It has a screened-in porch right off the family room with an outdoor fireplace. It’s a great way to spend an evening and watch the moon come up over the water.”

To build a home of this size was no small task, especially since they kept the grandkids in mind. The Blankemeyers wanted to be wise with each decision, which meant hiring an interior designer to assist not only with the finishing touches but also to offer input on the floorplan in the earliest stages. However, finding the right lot was the first step.

“We wanted to be on the lake, and when we saw Rarity Bay and the view of the mountains, it was gorgeous. So we bought a condo and two lots. Then our kids said, ‘You really ought to build a nice big house because we can’t fit in the condo,’” Jim says. “We built the big house and, you know, we never had a swimming pool before. The kids loved it, the grandkids loved it.”

“The home was ideal for family gatherings,” Carolyn says. “That’s difficult for us to let go of.”

The bottom floor was a literal playground, a large, open recreation room with hopscotch in the tile floor, shuffleboard and a pool table, with space for ping-pong and air hockey. The second kitchen meant no running to the main floor for a quick snack. The rec room opened to the back patio, pool, hot tub and sauna. For those staying in the guesthouse located on the property, the basement area offered all the amenities of the main floor and more.

“The guesthouse is about 1,200 square feet with a loft, kitchen and laundry facilities,” Jim says. “The grandkids loved that too. The adult grandkids, even this past year, would come up with their friends and stay there.”

Each of the six bedrooms has its own attached full bathroom, and there are three additional half baths throughout. The dock has two slips and extra space for jet-skis. Other features include a wood-paneled home office, a family room with a vaulted ceiling and stacked stone fireplace, and balconies off the second floor. Geothermal heating helped keep utility bills low.

At every turn, the home has been meticulously cared for, and it’s the Blankemeyers’ desire to see it enjoyed again by another family.

“We’d love to see a family who has children and teenagers who can use it and enjoy it,” Jim says. “For charitable use, too. We used it a lot for that. We had missionaries come and stay in the guesthouse.”

For more information, contact Angie Riedl at Alliance Sotheby’s International Realty.