KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Sam Furrow has sold off the remains of two World's Fairs and part of a defunct NASA space complex in Florida.
But he's never had to prep for a project as complex as Villa Collina, Knoxville's sprawling, ornate, arguably garish multimillion-dollar marble and tile mansion on Lyons View Pike.
The longtime Knoxville auctioneer and his team catalogued all of the hundreds of furnishings and fixtures, consulted with experts about building features, and planned three days of public walk-throughs, in progress now, ahead of the virtual auction that begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday 12/4.
"We wanted to come and see this since it's such a landmark," said Donna Coulter, a longtime Villa Collina fan. "It kind of sad that it's going to have to be taken down."
Everything but the landscaping and the wine bottles will be sold. And then wrecking crews will rumble down the busy West Knoxville road to 5628 Lyons View Pike and bash the walls and superstructure to the ground.
"It's proved that it's not a really functional home -- as great as it is," Furrow said.
The 40,000-square-foot home has occupied a scenic perch above Fort Loudoun Lake for only about 25 years. In a matter of months, it'll all be gone, torn down to make way for three lots where unnamed and affluent owners will build their own, presumably smaller homes.
Furrow escorted WBIR this week around the vast Villa Collina ahead of a three-day public preview that started Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Yes, you're welcome to come look at what's for sale and ogle the splendor of one of Tennessee's biggest houses. There'll be an online-only auction for the house's personal effects Dec. 4.
"The long-term intent is to have everything down to the red dirt," Furrow said. "If there's anything left it'll be put in excavator buckets, loaded on trucks and hauled to the dump."
IT'S ALWAYS SEEMED KIND OF CURSED
Here's a very quick history of the home: It was built in the mid to late 1990s. It's traded hands several times; only a few people actually have lived in it.
East Tennessee entrepreneur and defense contractor Eric Barton bought it in 2016 for $6.375 million intent on using it as a show place. He refurbished much of it
But Barton got tied up in a business fight with a former partner, who ended up acquiring the property in 2020 as part of the resolution of a federal lawsuit.
Photos: Inside Villa Collina, one of Tennessee's largest mansions
This year two people with no legitimate legal claims to it attached a bogus lien, tying up a planned sale. One of them, Erica Elliott of Oak Ridge, ended up being charged in a three-count indictment this summer in Knox County Criminal Court for filing the lien.
Last month she signed paperwork for an undisclosed amount of money to relinquish her lien, and the new mystery owners finally and formally acquired the home and property for $6.5 million.
And they're ready to demolish it to make way for three lots on the hilly site.
FABULOUS AND EPHEMERAL
It's safe to say there's nothing like Villa Collina anywhere in East Tennessee.
Walk in the door and it still smells new.
It has hallways that appear as long as a football field, an underground swimming pool that feels more like a grotto. A wine cellar that winds through the belly of the building with a trickling fountain and numerous wine-tasting nooks and crannies.
It features hidden doors with passageways presumably created for the help to quietly come and go without disturbing the lord and lady of the manor.
A three-story octagonal library linked by a circular staircase looks out over the lake and the distant Smokies. There are gold and pink bathrooms with bidets. There's a workout room, a master suite with a meditation room, closet space for hundreds of pairs of shoes and enormous his and hers closet storage, a Vols football bedroom suite. There are two apartments, one on each end of the main house.
It's been used for film shoots including Burt Reynolds' last film, "The Last Movie Star".
Furrow said past owners installed $600 doorknobs, fabric wallpaper, shipped in marble from a quarry in Turkey including 550 feet of railing in the back, bought mantels from all over Europe, commissioned artist John Kelly to paint ceiling murals, installed LED lights throughout the house, added multiple geo-thermal heating units and more than a dozen "sub-zero" refrigerators.
A reminder, again: What isn't sold is going to be torn down and trucked away.
DO YOU WANT TO SEE IT?
Keep an eye on Furrow Auction's website in the coming weeks to see what all is for sale and get details on the Dec. 1-3 preview and the Dec. 4 virtual auction.
Furrow said he anticipates there may be people who come to gawk during the preview. That's fine by him. Some, or maybe many, will end up buying something.
"I'm happy for people who want to come and look because they'll go tell their neighbor, 'You can't believe what a beautiful chest I saw.' Besides, they'll become our customer some day," he said.
The auction company has made arrangements with nearby Episcopal Church of the Ascension to allow for parking in a back lot. Passenger buses will run people from the church lot up to the house and back.
Police will be on hand to help at the site, Furrow said.
Keep in mind that what's for sale from the Villa Collina might not be a good fit for your living room. Or bathroom. Or bedroom.
After the online-only Dec. 4 auction of the interior furnishings, Furrow said the plan is in a few weeks to hold a second sale for items like a generator and a water system.
He hopes someone will be ready to step up and buy entire rooms.
"That'll be the second, liquidation phase," he said.
The new owners aim to move fast.
By the first or second quarter of 2022, Furrow said, they want the site to be cleared.
"I think they've had architects in here already," Furrow said.