No matter how many times you’ve been to the historic Sidna Allen Home in Fancy Gap, you’ve never seen it this way before.
Carroll County native Rita Semones Edlein is now offering a 14-piece, 5×7-inch fine art card collection from her photo shoot last summer of the Fancy Gap landmark that included photographers and models from all over the world. Edlein, who now resides in Knoxville, Tennessee, included photos of as many rooms of the historic antebellum home as possible. The collection will be a limited edition of just 150 sets.
Considered one of the most remarkable and lavish homes in Carroll County more than 100 years ago, the historic house still amazes from its prominent location on the hill on U.S. 52 in Fancy Gap. Forever intertwined with the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy of 1912 that left five people dead, the Sidna Allen Home remains a focal point of Carroll County history.
Once the limited edition set is sold out, Edlein said there will be a small limited edition (30 sets total) final collection that will showcase the remaining rooms in the home if the first collection sells out by May 30. The cost of the 14-piece fine art card set is $60 plus $2.50 shipping. It can be purchased via PayPal at [email protected], and 100 percent of the net proceeds will go to the Carroll County Historical Society for the Sidna Allen restoration project. The collection will also be available for purchase on Saturday, April 23 from 12-2 p.m. outside Sunnyside Store.
Edlein said the quality of the photographs in the fine art card set is both exceptional and frameable.
“I did these on a hard-stock, greeting card-type of paper. It’s not a cheap, bendable type of card,” she said. “The reason for that was because the photographers allowing me to use their work were very specific about what they would release. I had to make sure the color was right and the quality of picture comes across the way they shot it. That’s how we ended up with these fine art cards.”
The photos are the culmination of a more than week-long photo shoot at the house last year that included models and photographers from as far away as El Salvador, New Zealand and Mexico. One of the stars of the shoot ended up being a Carroll County native, CCHS senior Bristal Upchurch.
“I ran an ad on Model Mayhem trying to get local people, which was why I contacted Bristal. I found out she was underage and I thought she could be my assistant,” Edlein said. “After the second day we were running short and she hopped in. From that point forward, I had to carry my own gear because everybody was fighting over using her.”
Edlein said it would have been a lot less work and money for her to simply make a donation toward the restoration of the Sidna Allen House. But by bringing in an international team of artists, she hopes to keep interest high in saving the home.
“That’s why I invited people in to photograph what they saw and go back to their states and their countries and generate more interest,” she said. “It’s not all about the house, it’s about that town. It’s why we also shot in the (Hillsville) Diner and in the old jailhouse.”
For those interested, Edlein said anyone that buys the limited edition fine art card set by May 1 will be invited to a “Proud to be an American” photo shoot she plans to do in Carroll County on Saturday, May 21. The idea for “Proud to be an American” came from a photo she took last summer of local Charlie Swain at the Hillsville Diner.
“My overall goal is to get more people in the town and the county to see some kind of vision, something beyond what that town has been so far – so there is something for it in the future. It’s the reason I want the Sidna Allen house to be saved,” Edlein said. “That house generated revenue and tax income and possibly a couple of jobs. That is why I know it needs to be saved. The shoot for Proud to be an American, I wanted it to be about the local people. The citizens of Carroll County are proud to be American. It’s a community that supports each other. It’s one of things I love about that place, and I also see an opportunity to get people to become more passionate about the future of the county.”
People who purchase three or four sets are welcome to bring three or four people along with them for the “Proud to be an American” photo shoot. If you’ve been in the military, you are encouraged to wear something you’ve worn in the military. All others will be asked to wear red, white and blue.
“We’re going to get at least 12 really good shots,” Edlein said. “If that happens, then we will most likely make a calendar.”
One person will not have to purchase a set of the fine art cards to be invited to the “Proud to be an American” photo shoot – Charlie Swain. In fact, he inspired the shoot, Edlein said, with his military outfit and photo taken last year in the Hillsville Diner.
“A friend of mine has a film and production company, and she wanted me to look at a horror movie project they are doing in Los Angeles. Most horror movies are very low budget, yet they have high gross revenue because they appeal to teenagers and a large market of people,” Edlein said. “So I started talking about Charlie Swain. I thought he would be perfect as an extra in a movie, which brings me to what I have always wished, especially with factories going down in that area and the need for more jobs. The need for something people can do to be themselves and get paid for, and that is being an extra in a movie. That’s why I am doing the ‘Proud to be an American’ photo shoot. If only one person from there that has any interest in doing any kind of extra work, that is enough for me. I am not a talent or casting agent, but it is a beautiful town and a beautiful county and I feel there is an opportunity there. I feel Carroll County would be a perfect place to film a movie, particularly about the Carroll County massacre.”
Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]