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Historic Franklin Home To Be Renovated As Hub For Black Culture

Cassandra W. Taylor, a descendant of A.N.C. Williams and former resident of the historic Merrill-Williams House, gives a tour of the property's dining room.
Damon Mitchell
/
WPLN News
Cassandra W. Taylor, a descendant of A.N.C. Williams and former resident of the historic Merrill-Williams House, gives a tour of the property's dining room.

The famous Merrill-Williams House near downtown Franklin is getting a makeover as residents work to preserve Black culture in the city’s Natchez Street Historic District. The area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

The district is known as a Black community and development settlement. The Merrill-Williams home was acquired by the nonprofit African American Heritage Society of Williamson County on Wednesday.

The large white, two-story cottage home was named after Black Tennesseans Moses Merrill and A.N.C. Williams.

Merrill was a former enslaved man who first owned the property after gaining his freedom following the Civil War. The house was eventually transferred to Williams, a Black merchant and educator.

During Jim Crow, Williams and his family transformed the property into a safe haven for Black people to gather.

“The African American newspaper in Nashville would publish what happened here,” says Carroll Van West, a professor and historian for the state of Tennessee. “An art club happened here. They had musical performances here.”

Now, generations later, Cassandra Taylor, a descendant of Williams, says she wants to preserve that history. Taylor grew up in the home with her mom and dad. She currently lives in Memphis with her husband.

Cassandra Taylor shows off a photo of her father, Fred Williams.Damon MitchellWPLN News

“We would have these big formal dinners here, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she says, pointing to the dining room table.

Taylor signed a contract to allow the society to take over the home after they agreed to restore it as a community space to study Black culture and history in Middle Tennessee.

Her now deceased parents, she says, would be happy to know that the house will continue long past them and be put into the hands of the community.

Cassandra Taylor shows off a photo of her father, Fred Williams.
Damon Mitchell / WPLN News
/
WPLN News
Cassandra Taylor shows off a photo of her father, Fred Williams.

Copyright 2021 WPLN News

Damon Mitchell