Bill Powell – Restoring Franklin One Lovely House at a Time

Bill Powell is a legend in Franklin and a fixture in our town since 1974. For the past 47 years he has restored 75 of Franklin’s most historic homes and buildings, including constructing various new period houses of all styles using antique materials in key places. 

His dedication to preserving and honoring history started with his grandparents. He explains, It’s in my blood to reuse old materials. My grandfather was a contractor in Huntsville in the early 20th century. He reclaimed wood and brick and reused them in his buildings.”

It Started with a Road Trip on Highway 31

Having been raised in Alabama, Bill fell in love with Franklin when his family would drive half a day on US 31 Highway to Nashville to visit his orthodontist. It was a winding two-lane road back then. This was back in the 1960s when the downtown was still vibrant.

Bill went on to major in Fine Arts at the University of North Alabama. He wanted to be a restoration architect. Through the influence of his grandmother, who had been an antique dealer, Bill began selling antiques during college. He did this full time for 16 years with some of his pieces appearing in the Tennessee State Museum and the Smithsonian. 

In 1974, Bill and his lovely wife, Dale, decided to move to Franklin. By that time, 70% of Franklin’s buildings were empty on Main Street. This was long before the Heritage Foundation helped revitalize downtown through the efforts of Executive Directors Ruby Jordan, Mary Pierce, and downtown property owners. Today downtown Franklin is one of the top preserved small towns in America!

Bill’s first home was located at 7th and Fair Street. That $16,000 investment was the start of something big as Bill would continue to find more homes to restore. He opened up his Franklin antique store, William Powell Co. Home and Garden, where the present day Habit is now at 506 West Main Street.

Bill’s restorations have been featured in Southern Living Magazine, Country Home Magazine, Colonial Homes Magazine, Nashville Arts, and Nashville Magazine. One of his homes has been showcased in a book, Tennessee at Home, which covers vintage houses. The first chapter is a 1820 stagecoach inn in Marshall County that Bill restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

His Home on Historic Lewisburg Pike

Bill and Dale moved to another charming home located at 210 Lewisburg Pike in 2014. The 1886 house had been the fanciest Queen Anne Victorian built at the time. He spent two years restoring and adding additional space and formal gardens. 

The house had previously been owned by Sallie Lagrone. She was a local celebrity decorator and antique dealer, who had appeared on Martha Stewart’s TV show several times. Martha did a Christmas feature on the house when Sallie lived there. Years ago, Bill used to sell his antiques at Pier Show in New York City where Martha was a big buyer. 

Bill says, “I never get tired of projects, it’s all fascinating to me. Oftentimes, I take houses that have really been dumbed down, and I put them back just as it would have been so many years ago.”

The Restoration of Walnut Grove

Bill’s latest project has been what he affectionately calls “Walnut Grove” located at 419 Murfreesboro Road, four blocks from Franklin’s Square. 

J.T. Shannon originally built the lovely home in 1866. The house was on 400 acres of land where the current Pinkerton Park is located. His son, Dr. J.O. Shannon, later lived on the land. Like many large properties, it was farmed to provide food for the family. Bill found corn cobs in the walls and under the house during his restoration, along with the original rock-lined well still intact.

The previous owner, Marie Jordan, gave Bill the above photo of the house as it was originally built. She had it hanging in her kitchen. He used it as a guide to restore the house to its original appearance from what it had become in the photo below.

Bill made it his goal to bring back the original front facade because the design had been changed over the years from the columns and windows, to the shutters and front porch. 

The incredible restoration took two years on the remaining 1.6 acres. Bill had to raise the entire house to have a new foundation put in place. The home today is over 6,000 sq. ft.

As with many of Bill’s restorations, the home features original floors, windows and doors. But it also has many antique pieces brought in to complete the home like the gorgeous arched front door. Bill has quite the collection of vintage doors, windows, and antique lighting.

Bill had these beautiful half-round windows custom made for the home and shutters to match the original design.

Follow Jake Monroe on Instagram @middletnrealestate

Franklin Realtor Jake Monroe with Luxury Homes of Tennessee recently sold the home for $2.4 Million. Jake is a Nashville native and Franklin resident. He’s an expert on selling Franklin’s historic houses and the luxury home market. Now a beautiful new family will get to enjoy this historic gem for many years.  

When you enter through the front door, you will see one of the finest hand-built floating circular staircases in all of Tennessee. It literally takes your breath away!

Builder J.T. Shannon’s original signature was discovered by Bill in three places in black ink on the skirt boards on each side of the staircase. 

The original floors were made from virgin poplar trees from when America was first settled. You can tell this by their beautiful grain color. After the Civil War, heart pine was typically used in homes because it could be transported by rail. 

Bill worked with restoration architect Don Burke to restore the original Renaissance architect Palladio-inspired exterior. The two were able to maintain the original character while adding to the function and livability.

Another hallmark of the Palladio design is the glass rotunda. It makes this historic home unique in Franklin. Bill added an exquisite chandelier to give the home a world-class feel.  

There are two original doors upstairs. Bill replaced all the others with doors from his antique mortise and tenon collection. 

Other features include two original fireplace mantels with brick hearths. Bill added mantels from the 1830s. 

Bill transformed the upstairs windows into functional bookcases. Lion hooks from pocket doors in the house were repurposed from the original owner, Mrs. Jordan. He finds adding repurposed items like the Williamsburg chandelier in the master bathroom “good karma” for the home. 

His expertise is in knowing how to graciously restore a historic home while modernizing necessities like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry, electrical, plumbing, and more in order to bring everything up to code. 

The stunning marble kitchen features a Ben Pentreath inspired island. Ben designs spaces for the British Royal Family. The interesting kitchen light was made from repurposed gas light fixtures with hand blown shades.

The spacious dining room extension off the kitchen includes walls that were once floors in the house.

Another fun fact is the beadboard in the pantry had once been a ceiling of the house. Bill’s grandfather would be proud! 

Bill repurposed some flooring found in an upstairs addition to create a unique vintage feel in the mudroom.

The beautiful back porch overlooks Pinkerton Park which was part of the original 400 acres of the home.

Bill’s Incredible West Main Street Restoration

One of Bill’s most visible downtown Franklin projects is on the same road he used to travel as a kid, West Main (Highway 31). It’s the long block of businesses that houses Franklin Road Apparel, Southern Grace and Habit. “I had my antique store where Habit is now for four years.”

The building was in dismal condition when he bought it. But he painstakingly had this historic commercial area restored to even better than it was before.

“Then I bought the Rescue Squad building and spent two years restoring it. The building now houses Franklin Road Apparel, but it was originally built as a Ford dealership in 1935.”

The building housed a couple more car dealerships before it became the Interurban Bus Station and the Williamson County Fire Rescue Squad. Bill was able to use an important piece of Franklin history for the new stone facade.

“It’s interesting that all the materials used to build that building were repurposed from the huge Victorian house that sat on that corner of 5th Avenue and West Main belonging to the Harrison family. Some of the stone on the front is from a federal house, circa 1825, that sat on that site and was torn down. Unfortunately, in 1931 the beautiful Victorian home was demolished as well. So the stone was used three times. That was quite common, to reuse old materials. Especially during the depression.”

Bill is Not Slowing Down, But Going Full Speed with Mike Wolfe

Bill is pictured here with Mike Wolfe and his brother Charles Powell at his vintage barn he built.

So many, many homes have been lovingly restored by Bill including his son Will’s home of West Main. It has a new Greek Revival facade that many people think is original.

We are excited to share that Bill’s latest project is in Leiper’s Fork for Mike Wolfe, the American picker. Mike used to visit Bill’s antique store and they formed a great friendship. We cannot wait to see the finished project!

With almost five decades of experience in historic restoration, Bill Powell is a treasure for the city of Franklin. His commitment to preserving the past while bringing homes into the 21st Century is truly a gift to the entire state of Tennessee. His buddies historian Rick Warwick and preservationist Robert Hicks make us all proud to lead the charge to remember and preserve our little town.

We thank you, Bill, for your commitment and dedication to preserving our lovely Franklin. May you have many more years to bring back these beauties for future generations to admire. 

We are Lovely Franklin,

Lovely Franklin Brandon and Buffie

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4 Comments

  1. This is so lovely!! I love learning about the deep history that surrounds this amazing place! Thank you for this.

  2. What a great biography and history of the charm in historic downtown Franklin, TN. This mom is proud of her son, Jake Monroe.

  3. Very nice work! I am a registered architect as well as a former commissioner on both the Ocean Grove historic preservation commission and Vernon historic preservation commission. I truly appreciate what you have done and what you have left for generations to come.

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