A Look at Lost Landmarks, Part One

Today, Maury County has an abundance of beautiful and historic sites. In fact, there is such an abundance of historic sites that Maury County has been dubbed the “Antebellum Homes Capital of Tennessee.” But, for all of the sites still standing, many more have been lost to the ages. Fires, neglect, mother nature, indifference, and “progress” have all played a role in the demise of local landmarks.

Unfortunately, this is only a partial listing of sites Columbia has lost:

Andrews School

The Columbia Conference College was established in 1850 by the Methodist Episcopal Church on the site of the old Columbia Female Seminary. The three-story brick structure known as Corinthian Hall was built shortly after the founding of the college, perhaps between 1851 and 1852.

img025

Postcard of “Andrews School,” the old Corinthian Hall, postmarked 1909.

The Columbia Conference College was a church-run girls school. There was already such a school in Columbia, the Columbia Female Institute operated by the Episcopal Church. When Rev. Smith founded the Athenaeum in 1852, that made three all-girl schools in Columbia. The Columbia Conference College could not compete and ceased to operate prior to the Civil War.

During the war, most of the buildings that comprised the campus of the school were burned. These were mostly frame structures. The brick building, Corinthian Hall, survived, and was used as a hospital during much of the war by both armies.

After the war, old Corinthian Hall stood abandoned on the east side of Columbia. Many folks claimed the building was haunted, as ghostly lights could be seen floating from window-to-window during the night. It was not ghosts, but something more terrifying, as the Ku Klux Klan was using this as a meeting place in the night.

img066 (marked 1906)

“Andrews School” postmarked 1906.

In 1873, two of Rev. Smith’s sons (William and Frank) purchased the property to start an all-male high school after their older brother, Robert, inherited the Athenaeum school for girls. The Smith Brothers sold their all-male school to the City of Columbia in 1881.

The city reopened the building as Andrews School. It was the city’s first public school.

Andrews School, the old Corinthian Hall, was demolished in 1988. All that remains of the school is the stone fence, erected around the property in 1896.

img_4751

The Andrews School site today. The Board of Education’s Maintenance Building is now on this site. The old stone fence remains.

 

 

James K. Polk’s Other Home

When the “Polk Home” is mentioned in Columbia, most folks think about the home on the southwest corner of West Seventh and High Street. This home was built by the President’s father, Samuel, in 1816.

There was another Polk Home, though. This other home was built by James K. Polk shortly after his marriage to Sarah Childress in 1824. Over the years the Polks called the place home, two Presidents were entertained there: Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. This, too, was where James K. Polk lived when elected President.

img001 (marked 1911)

Postmarked in 1911, this postcard claims to be the “home of James K. Polk when elected President of the United States.”

But, what happened to this house? Well, what happened is disputed. Some claim the home was razed in 1872 by Dr. A L. Pillow. Others claim Dr. Pillow only remodeled and added to the home.

Despite what Dr. Pillow did, the people of Columbia continued to call this the home of President Polk. As a matter of fact, when Cordelia Pillow sold the home to Katherine Regen, the deed claimed this was “the old Polk home.”

img002

In addition to this evidence, in 1896, Caroline O. Nicholson alluded to the fact that this was James K. Polk’s Columbia home when writing her memoirs. The Century Review of Maury County in 1906 made no bones about it, stating that the Pillow Home was the past residence of the former President and First Lady. Postcards of the early 20th century were printed, as well, claiming this to the be the home of President Polk.

img001

Were all of these sources wrong? Did Dr. Pillow actually raze the home of a President in 1872? The newspaper accounts of 1872 state that he did. These articles created enough doubt and allowed the site to be razed in the 1960s. The vacant lot where the home once stood is now a parking lot for Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

The steps that once led from the sidewalk to the front porch can still be seen on West Seventh Street.

img_4758

 

 

The Bethel House Hotel

On the northwest corner of Garden and West Seventh Street once stood the finest hotel Columbia has ever known, the Bethell House. Built by William Decatur Bethell in 1882, the Bethell House Hotel was the crown jewel of Downtown Columbia. As part of the building, on the western side, was the Opera House, later known as the Princess Theatre.

img018 (marked 1908)

This three-story building featured stores, a theater, and a restaurant on the first floor. A grand ballroom was on the second floor, as was access to the private boxes of the Opera House. The third floor was made up entirely of guest rooms, of which there were sixty first-class ones throughout the hotel.

Horse-drawn omnibuses ran between the hotel and the train depot throughout the day, so that guests could go straight from the train to the hotel or vice-versa.

img019

In 1930, the Opera House became the Princess Theatre and would later be remodeled to take on a more Art Deco look inside. The hotel and Princess Theatre were truly the cultural hub of Downtown Columbia. Schools, dance classes, and local drama clubs all used the stage of the theater for their shows. Saturdays for most kids meant a day of movies and popcorn at the Princess.

img013 (marked 1931)

For some unknown reason, the last “l” from Bethell was dropped, so that the hotel became known as the Bethel House. Despite this change, the signs on top of the hotel were never changed. They retained the two-“l” spelling of Bethell until the end.

img016 (marked 1954)

That end came during the night of November 27, 1949. During this night and into the morning of November 28th, the Bethel House Hotel and Princess Theatre burned.

First Tennessee Bank and its parking lot now sit where the Bethel House once stood.

img_4759

 

 

Columbia Female Institute

The Episcopal Diocese began construction of their Columbia school in 1835. After several delays, Rev. Franklin Gillette Smith finished and opened the Columbia Female Institute in 1837.

img014

For 95 years, school was held in the castle-like building along West Seventh Street in Columbia. An advertising pamphlet from 1837 reads:

The general effect of the exterior is imposing, from its magnitude and its just proportions.

The selection and execution of the decorative parts of the façade exhibit the classical taste of the architects and their judicious adherence to the established principles of Gothic architecture. The front of the building—the exposure of which is towards the north—is one hundred and twenty feet long, including the Octagonal Towers at the corners, eleven feet in diameter, which rise one story above the building and terminate in turrets. The corners on the back side are finished with Martello towers, five feet in diameter, which rise above the parapet walls and are also turreted. The whole effect of the building is improved by its fine basement story (not shown at all in our engraving) which is separated from the first story by an elegant band of hewn stone, the material employed also in the flights of steps leading up into the porticos. The width of the porticos is twenty-one feet, and their projection from the front wall, fifteen feet—the front and side openings being pointed arches, and the massive piers with buttresses in front and on one side, terminating in elegant lanterns. The walls of the porticos and the whole of the façade are turreted…

img020 (marked 1911)

The Columbia Female Institute closed in 1932. After which, the building was used for a variety of purposes. It was being used as storage for the school system when it burned in 1959. On the night of Friday the 13th, March 1959, the school caught fire. It was a complete loss.

blog

An aerial photo showing the aftermath of the Columbia Female Institute Fire.

Today, Columbia Plaza shopping center and the U.S. Post Office sit on the site of the old girls school.

img_4755

If you’d like to read more about the school, visit: https://historicmaurycounty.com/2017/12/18/the-columbia-female-institute/ 

 

 

The Athenaeum Campus

Rev. Franklin Gillette Smith left the Columbia Female Institute in 1852 and started his own school. He named his school the Athenaeum.

This school was located literally next door to the Institute, just to the southeast.

athenaeum map

The large Athenaeum campus. The Columbia Female Institute was located where the key, or “Explanation” is on the map.

The most prominent building on the Athenaeum campus was the Study Hall. This white building was fronted on two sides (north and south) by four-columned porticoes.

office 4 (2)

When the Smith family sold the campus to the City of Columbia in 1904, the city retained the old Study Hall building as a public school.

img002 (marked 1906)

Later, in 1915, the city would tear down this building to build the first Central High School on this location.

img067

Just to the west of where Central High School was built, the Tennessee Children’s Home was erected in 1909. This building would be razed in the 1930s to build Whitthorne Middle School.

img048 (marked 1916)

On the most southeastern portion of the old Athenaeum campus, King’s Daughters Hospital would be built. The King’s Daughters school is now on this location.

img046 (marked 1944)

The are several homes on the Athenaeum’s historic campus today. King’s Daughters School and the Maury County Board of Education are also on the property today. Thanks to these two entities, the property continues to have ties to education, a distinction held since 1852.

The rectory of the Athenaeum remains and is a historic site and museum.

-Adam Southern

 

Most of the images in this post are postcards from the collection of Adam Southern. If you’d like to see more, consider a copy of his new book, Greetings from Maury County, Tennessee

 

A Stroll Among the Stones

During this month of baseball playoffs, college football rivalries, and ghost stories, the urge to stroll through local cemeteries is the strongest it will get all year.

While there are many beautiful and historic cemeteries in Maury County, perhaps none are better to stroll through than Rose Hill in Columbia. Founded in 1853 on land sold by city mayor Meredith Helm, Rose Hill replaced Greenwood as Columbia’s city cemetery.

In Rose Hill are the graves of soldiers, statesmen, and many other lauded individuals. The famous here range from a famous horse racer to a legendary stock car driver. The majority of the graves, however, belong to decent, hardworking people that helped build Columbia from the ground up. For most, their stories will never be fully known or told.

Rose Hill, unlike many other cemeteries in the county, was planned and platted. Popular at this time were “garden cemeteries.” This movement made cemeteries more like city parks than unorganized repositories for the dead. Rose Hill, for example, is laid out into blocks with drives through each section. Flowering trees and evergreens can be seen throughout.

With its many drives, Rose Hill is perfect for a stroll and what really catches the attention of visitors are the monuments. During the Victorian-era, ornate monuments were constructed for graves in Rose Hill. The best of these were ordered from the Muldoon Monument Co. of Louisville, Kentucky.

Muldoon Monuments:

The Muldoon Monument Co. was founded in 1854 by Michael Muldoon. The earliest monuments from Muldoon in Rose Hill are in the Mayes family plot and are signed “Muldoon, Bullett, & Co.” Charles Bullett was a French sculptor who supervised the production of monuments in the firm’s workshop in Carrara, Italy. The monuments of Lou and Ella Mayes were made by this firm in the 1860s.

 

Another marker in the same plot is for Lena Mayes Childress and her daughter. Lena was a sibling to Lou and Ella Mayes. This monument—and those to Lou and Ella—have no dates on them, only their ages at death. Using her death date, Lena passed away between 1872 and 1873. Lena’s monument is a fine example of an extravagant late-Victorian marker.

IMG_4569

Grave of Lena Mayes Childress & her daughter

There are two other fine monuments in this family plot, but no markings could be found to identify the makers. Muldoon is still in business today under the name Muldoon Memorials. Their website reads, “The test of our vistion is as simple as a trip to the cemetery. Find a memorial that impresses or inspires you and nine times out of ten, it was built by Muldoon.” Given those odds, it is fair to say Muldoon is responsible for the other two monuments in the Mayes plot.

Outside of the Mayes plot, there are other fine examples of Muldoon’s work in Rose Hill, including:

IMG_4558

William John Andrews, Jr. monument, circa 1887

IMG_4561.JPG

John William Dunnington monument, circa 1882

But, perhaps the premier Muldoon monument in Rose Hill Cemetery is the one located in the Confederate Section. This monument was designed in 1881 by George W. Kendall of the Muldoon Monument Co. and was delivered to Columbia by rail in 1882 when it was dedicated. An 1888 Tennessean article exclaims Muldoon & Co “have designed and built fourteen Confederate monuments. One of the best pieces of art is the “Lost Cause,” erected at Rose Hill, Columbia, Tenn., which is said to be perfect in all its proportions.” This monument features a Confederate soldier standing at funeral parade rest atop a pedestal that features inverted cannon barrels.

Confed Monument.jpg

Postcard of the “Lost Cause” monument in the Confederate Section, postmarked 1908

An ad for Muldoon Monument Co. from the back of an early Confederate Veteran magazine lists the Columbia monument as one of the company’s works. Ironically, also on the list is the Gen. Patrick Cleburne monument in Helena, Arkansas. Gen. Cleburne was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery after the Battle of Franklin where he fell. He was later removed to St. John’s graveyard and, once again, removed to Helena, Arkansas

Muldoon

Ad from Confederate Veteran magazine

Local Stonecutters:

One of the earliest stonecutters of note in the county was W. Bland. His work, for the most part, went unsigned. One tombstone identified as his work is that of Ed Voss. A short article from the February 3, 1871 Columbia Herald and Mail reads:

“One of the first companies that went from this county at the outbreak of the late War Between the States (and the last to come back,) was called the ‘Maury Greys,’ under Capt., no Col., Looney. Some time since, one of its members Ed. W. Voss, died in the vicinity, and the remaining soldiers of the company in this place erected a tombstone or monument over his remains at Rose Hill Cemetery. The work was done by Mr. Bland.”

IMG_4565

Grave of Ed. Voss in Rose Hill Cemetery, tombstone by W. Bland

What happened to Mr. Bland is unknown, save for the fact that William Shirley took over his shop in 1871.

William Shirley was perhaps the most prolific local stonecutter. Born in England in 1826, Shirley arrived in the United States at age 16 and married his first wife in New York at age 22. His first child was born in Maury County in 1851. The first found mention of William Shirley as a stonecutter is as a partner in the firm of Shirley & Shane in Nashville. This partnership produced many beautiful monuments in the 1860s, including that of James Hodge in Rose Hill.

 

In 1869, William Shirley and J. P. Shane dissolved their partnership and the next year found William Shirley in yet another partnership, this time with T. J. Canterbury. This firm was based out of Columbia, but this partnership, too, dissolved in 1871.

 

 

That same year, William Shirley took over W. Bland’s old shop and began his own marble works. He had several sons under his employment, including William N. “Bill” Shirley. “Bill” Shirley shared his father’s occupation as a stonecutter and mason. The two would also marry the same woman, but that’s a story for another time. Young Bill Shirley would go on to cut all of the limestone for the Columbia Arsenal buildings and is credited with discovering phosphate in Maury County. Despite the millions of dollars other people made from his discovery, Bill Shirley died a pauper and was buried in Rose Hill without a tombstone.

Many marvelous monuments in Rose Hill are engraved “Wm. Shirley.” These are more than likely the work of the elder William Shirley or, at least, were produced in old-man Shirley’s marble factory under his name.

 

His old partner, T. J. Canterbury also did a lot of work in Rose Hill during the 1870s. The Columbia Herald and Mail reported in their “Around Town” column on March 31, 1871, “Wm. Shirley says he has a $600 monument for Mrs. Sowell to go over her husband at Rose Hill.” The next sentence reads, “Mr. T. J. Canterbury sold in one hour last Monday over $2,000 worth of monuments.”

 

People were just dying to get those monuments!

Monuments in Rose Hill are not limited to Muldoon, Bland, Canterbury, and Shirley. Messrs. S. P. Payne, Hill, Arthur McPhee, and Gracy were all active stonecutters in Columbia after the Civil War. Still, other stones were transported to Columbia from Nashville, St. Louis, and similar large markets. W. M. Dean Marble Co. in Columbia also did a large amount of monument work around the turn of the century until relocating to Nashville in 1940. When Dean left Columbia, the art of stonecutting left, too. All we are left with today are the works these true artisans left behind, still standing ever-vigilant in Rose Hill.

The history and beauty of Rose Hill Cemetery are unsurpassed. Do yourself a favor and stroll among the stones. At the end of your stroll, you might just be able to pick out which ones are Muldoon or Columbia made.

-Adam Southern