The home of Gordon and Sara Bell, known as Big Holly, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and the Bells invite the community to an open-house celebration from 3–7 p.m. on Saturday, July 9.
The home, located at 718 N. Maney Ave., was constructed in 1866.
The Michigan 9th was located on the property during the Union occupation of Murfreesboro. The short-lived Confederate victory of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Birthday Party took place there on July 13, 1862. It was on this lot, where a previous building had been located, that J.P. Henderson chose to build his home. The now 200-year-old American holly tree that was at the previous building is still growing, and is how the name Big Holly originated.
The home has seen many victories and challenges during its 150-year existence. Henderson, who built the house, lost it to repossession by Murfreesboro Savings Bank in 1870. In the 1870s, Lavina Cannon Claiborne lived there, and after the loss of Oaklands, Rachel Adeline Cannon Maney and her sister moved into the residence.
In 1892, Lavina and Rachel did a complete remodel of the home. The style of the home was changed to Queen Anne. The roof was raised, and eyebrow windows were added to the third floor. Electrical and gas lighting was installed. The outdoor kitchen was joined to the main house by a pantry, and a bathroom with hot and cold running water was located above the kitchen.
Around 1910, the Samuel Huddleston family of six daughters and one son moved to 718 N. Maney Ave. and occupied the home until the 1960s.
During the Huddlestons’ stay, the country went through many challenges, including two world wars and the Great Depression. The home was used by soldiers during maneuvers which took place in this area.
Only one of the Huddleston sisters married. With limited income derived by the sisters from sewing, the house suffered from lack of maintenance. The home was vacated and, in the early 1960s, vandalized. Unauthorized parties took place, and at one party, a fire was built in the front parlor. It became so hot that the floor on the second level caught fire until it burned itself out. Windows were broken, and water through the roof and windows took their toll on the ceilings as the water-soaked plaster fell to the floor.
The home was saved from demolition by William and Anne Holland, who occupied the home from the mid-1960s until the 1990s.
The home is built of brick; the first level is eight bricks thick, the second level is five bricks thick, and the third level is three bricks thick. Since the walls are plaster over brick, the rooms are the same size on all levels.
On Feb. 14, 1997, Gordon and Sara Bell purchased the property and began a painstaking restoration of the home. The home today is restored to the 1892-remodeled Queen Anne style. Many of the furnishings are from the period; some are returned items from previous owners.
The home will be open to the public from 3–7 p.m. on Saturday, July 9. Admission is free, and barbecue will be served (no charge, but contributions will be accepted to cover the food cost) for those wishing to eat.