Natchez neighbors hope to preserve Williams home as gift for the future

Posted at 8:56 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 21:58:16-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — The historic Natchez neighborhood in Franklin is filled with stories of the past, but a local group hopes to turn one home into a gift for the future.

Members of the African American Heritage Society say they want to turn the old Williams home on 264 Natchez Street into a historic center where they can highlight what makes this street special.

Mary Pearce, Alma McLemore, and Carolyn Wall have known each other for nearly 30 years, but they’ve always known Natchez Street.

“My grandparents lived on this street. I lived on the next street. So the roots go very deep,” McLemore said.

For every sign on Natchez Street, you’re never too far from a story. Across the same street corner as the Williams home, you’ll find Franklin’s Green Book entry once owned by Ruth Gaylor. A home where like other Green Book entries across the country, Black people could find hotels and restaurants that would accept their business. The book that was published by Victor H. Green in 1936 noted how at the time there were thousands of “sundown towns” where Blacks were legally barred from spending the night. The book inspired the 2019 Academy Award-winning movie by the same name.

What made the Williams home special was the local legacy left behind by ANC Williams. A man who was once a former slave and later became one of the first Black people to own property in Franklin. They’ve since named a street in his honor, but the home on Natchez Street was the legacy he built for his family that’s stood the test of time ever since.

“Preserving community character matters. Telling the story of a whole city within a city matter. The family tied to this house matters,” Pearce said.

It’s arguably their most ambitious project to date, but this hasn’t stopped these three from plans to save the home by purchasing the property. Not that gentrification has made it any easier. New people and new construction moving in and around these homes mean property values are through the roof.

The Williams home sits in the middle of two lots and now these three will need $610,000 to buy the property. They need another $500,000 to renovate the interior into the newly reimagined historical center.

Wall says they will raise the money for as long as it takes because ultimately it’s not about them. This is a gift for the future to remember stories of the past.

“To just have something to look back on and for our children to look back and say my grandparents went there or I know the people who lived there a long time ago. Just have something to reminisce about,” Wall said.

If you’d like to help, you can visit this website and donate here.

You're also welcome to send donations to their PO Box 1053 Franklin, TN 37065.

McLemore says no donation is too small and their hope is to at least have the home purchased by October.