Mark Lopez and Patrick Boggs’ century-old arts-and-crafts-style home overlooks Belmont Boulevard, which is lined with fine old houses. But when Lopez purchased it twenty years ago, it was far from fine.
It was Allen DeCuyper who brought the home to Lopez’s attention. “Allen and Steve were two of the people that I met right after coming to Nashville. I lived out on the east side. Allen was selling this house, and he told me he had a house I just had to buy. I wasn’t looking for a house, and when I came over here it was a pretty rough neighborhood. There was drug dealing in the alleys, if you can imagine.
“When I bought it, it was in a bad state,” Lopez said. “I’m just the fourth owner of the house. The second owner turned the place into a boarding house and joined it to adjacent properties. The third owner was a woman who lived here with her two adult daughters for twenty years. It had be reconverted it into a single family dwelling, but they did nothing to the house, just lived in it. The wiring still ran up the baseboards, and there was a light out here that had been missing for twenty years.”
“I wasn’t looking for a house at all, much less a project, but I had done some work on my house over on the east side, and I’ve always been handy. The bones of this house were just so great, and the woodwork was just amazing. It was just a great house—I could see that through all the problems—and I fell in love with it. The house on the east side was very nice, but this just had the potential to be a really stately house—the wood beams on the ceilings and the great colonnades. So much of the original stuff was still in place. These are original hardwood floors!”
So, with the help of contractors, Lopez set out to restore the home. The process would take years, only being truly completed a couple of years ago. “I’ve done so much of the manual labor involved in the repairs, and I’ve worked with various contractors and handymen. I didn’t take out any loans, so I did it in various stages over the years. I also did a carriage house that I rent out in the back of the property.”
Things didn’t always go smoothly. “Once I got the apartment fixed,” Lopez recalled, “the first tenant I had, the car was stolen out of the alley. There was a lot of rough stuff going on—I had lawnmowers stolen, wheelbarrows stolen. Until I got the fence, anything in the back yard seemed to just walk away.”
But over the years, Lopez found he had been very lucky the previous owners hadn’t done work on the house. The basement was a treasure trove of raw material. And as the restorations proceeded, so did the revitalization of his neighborhood, until he was left with a stately home in one of Nashville’s great neighborhoods.
Over the years, like other homes we’ve featured, Lopez and Boggs’ has welcomed the LGBT community. “I was the first co-chair for the HRC Dinner and we used to meet over here a lot. We did a fundraiser her for Nancy van Reece’s first run for office. We’ve had events for Pride—I was the marshal of the parade one year—with Del Shores and Leslie Jordan. That was a lot of fun.”
Lopez does not, however, put the house on home tours. “I did that before,” he explained, “but it’s so much wear and tear on a house. I just keep it for my friends.”
The last decade has seen amazing advances for the LGBT community, though much remains to be done to secure the rights of the most vulnerable. And while the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is no cure-all, it has done a great deal to cement the process of normalization that particularly gay and lesbians have enjoyed. In short, it is becoming much easier for LGBT people to make themselves at home in the wider culture, even in Middle Tennessee.
Part of that process is actually making homes for ourselves in the region—joining with the larger community in which we live and settling in amongst our neighbors. This isn’t just to keep up with the straight Jones’ and to show that we are as normal as everyone else. Aside from community centers and bars, LGBT homes are centers of communal existence, places of refuge for our friend groups to gather and our children to congregate.
So much community organizing and political action began in the kitchens and dining rooms of LGBT homes in middle Tennessee. Pride events were organized, funds were raised for CARES and other organizations, and life-long friendships were cemented in these harbors. As we move forward into the twenty-first century, the necessity of the home space for these functions may be diminishing, but the LGBT home still serves many purposes.
NOTE: The print version of this story incorrectly listed Patrick Armstrong as Mark Lopez's partner. It has been corrected to read Patrick Boggs, with sincerest apologies. — James Grady