Franklin’s historic Hincheyville neighborhood is a parade of sumptuous, old homes, but even among all these showstoppers, the Green-Blackburn House is hard to miss. The home beckons to passersby with its prominent turrets, stained-glass windows, and scalloped wood shingles. It’s almost as if the Queen-Anne Victorian is inviting guests to sit on her wraparound porch and listen to her story.
And what a story she has to tell. Behind the house’s red-brick façade lies a tale of greed and deceit that ultimately ended in devastation for the original homeowners—the once-illustrious Green family. But before we get into all that, let’s drop in on them during happier times.
MEET THE GREENS
It’s January 16, 1901, and 22-year-old Sallie Horton Green is entertaining the Kensington Circle, one of her many social clubs. Her home, known to locals as the “Turret Mansion,” hums with activity as the well-heeled women of Franklin’s elite mingle and swap pleasantries.
As with all of her soirees, Sallie has pulled out all the stops for this occasion. The parlors are decorated with palms and pink carnations, and her guests enjoy a five-course meal in the dining room. The group engages in a bit of fun with a party game, and each lady leaves with a carnation souvenir. The gathering is an afternoon to remember, and it even garners a mention in a Nashville newspaper.
While Sallie cements her place in Franklin’s social scene, her husband, Edward Edmund Green, is rising in the ranks at The National Bank of Franklin. He started as a teller in 1884 and was promoted to assistant cashier in 1889. Not only that, he’s a Mason, third ward alderman, prominent member of the Methodist church, commander of the Williamson Guards, and senior captain of the Perkins Rifles, Franklin Military Company. By all accounts, Ed is a popular, enterprising, and honest man. No one seems to question how an assistant cashier can afford such a luxurious home and lifestyle.
At least not yet.
A HOME BUILT TO BE SEEN
The Green’s grand home at 932 West Main Street projects the image of success that Ed has worked for years to craft. Ed acquired the corner lot when he was married to his first wife, Emma Lillie Green. Her father, Joshua B. Lillie, president of the Lillie Mill Company, owned the property and deeded a portion of it to Ed. Click here for more about J.B. Lillie and LilliHouse, which stands next door to the Green-Blackburn House.
J.B. Lillie had already built a frame house on that corner, but that residence wouldn’t do for the Greens—Ed had far grander plans for his family. To make way for his showplace, the original house was jacked up, put on logs, and rolled to the back of the property. It still stands at 935 Fair Street.
The D.G. Beers map above shows the original frame house in 1878 before it was moved.
This Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows West Main Street in 1903. The green dot marks the Green’s home, the red is LilliHouse, and the blue is the frame house in its present location.
Ed built the Turret Mansion around 1896 and spared no expense. This aerial photo shows the intricacies of the house with its turrets, spires, and chimneys.
Should anyone forget who could afford such opulence, Ed had the name Green etched into the brass knob of the front door. Amazingly, the inscription remains there to this day.
Ed, Emma, and their son, Bates, enjoyed three years in their new home before tragedy struck. On January 3, 1899, Emma died in the house at the age of 36. As one newspaper reported, “Her death was a great shock to her many friends of this place who were unaware of her serious illness.” Bates was only 13 when he lost his mother.
Almost two years later, on December 5, 1900, Ed married Sallie Horton, daughter of Henry Clairborne Horton, one of the wealthiest and most prominent men in Williamson County.
This is the Franklin Boy Scout troop in 1921 with Bates Green, Sr. (Ed’s son) in the third row (far right), and his son Bates Green, Jr. pictured on the second row (fourth from the left).
The Greens had two daughters together: Lucy Henderson, born on Halloween of 1901, and Marion Hyde, born in 1903.
From left: Lucy Henderson Horton (Sallie’s mother) helps pose Lucy, Marion, and Sallie Green in front of their home. Photo courtesy of Rick Warwick.
Nurses hold their charges in front of the Turret Mansion. Marion is baby number one. Photo courtesy of Rick Warwick.
THE HALCYON DAYS
The next several years pass quietly for the Greens, one of the most notable events being young Marion’s biking injury. The incident is written up as an exclusive to the Nashville Banner: “While riding on a tricycle on Main Street, the seven-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E.E. Green fell and broke her arm just below the elbow.”
The Heritage Foundation has this sweet photo of Marion on display in the Old, Old Jail located at 112 Bridge Street. You can tour this free museum open daily, Monday through Friday.
Sallie’s aging parents eventually move in with the Greens, and this colorized photo from 1905 offers a glimpse at the members of the household. Starting on the left, we see the maid, Mary Lizzie, along Ed, Lucy, Sallie, and Marion Green. Henry and Lucy Horton pose at the bottom of the steps.
Twenty-four-year-old Bates, who isn’t pictured, has moved out by this point and married a woman named Mary Polk Gault. He’s also working alongside his father at the National Bank of Franklin.
In 1910, the National Bank of Franklin President J.L. Parkes retires, and after this change in leadership, Ed is promoted to head cashier where he’s given carte blanche over the institution. Clearly, his superiors have great trust in him, and why shouldn’t they? Not only is Ed’s track record at the bank impeccable, he’s served as city treasurer for several years. The Williamson County News describes him as possessing “the business integrity and affability of manner” required for such a position. The article ends with these hopeful words: “May the present cashier wear the harness as long and pass from service under as favorable conditions as his predecessor.” Sadly, the exact opposite would happen.
THE FIRST BANK IN FRANKLIN
If there is any bank in town that can’t fail, it’s the National Bank of Franklin where the Green men work. It’s truly a landmark in the South. Known locally as the “Old Bank,” it’s the lineal successor of the Planter’s Bank, the first bank in Franklin. The Planter’s Bank was founded in 1834 and was later reorganized as the Bank of Franklin. In 1871, it became a national institution.
In 1901, while Ed was still an assistant cashier, a new building was erected on the site of the former Planter’s Bank at the west corner of the public square. Built at a cost of $5,569, the bank featured an elegant brick façade and marble floors. This structure still stands today to the left of Twine Graphics. It’s now used as a law office, but evidence of its former identity remains over the entrance. The word “BANK” and “1901” are engraved near the roofline.
The vault from Franklin’s “Old Bank” still remains in the law office that now occupies the building.
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING
Ed flourishes in his new position as head cashier, even using his sway to contribute to the relief efforts during WWI: At his suggestion, the upper rooms of the bank are handed over to Red Cross workers.
According to a newspaper advertisement from 1925, the bank is in robust condition with a capital and surplus of $150,000.
Even the city of Franklin has somewhere between $24,000 and $37,000 on deposit there. Ed is still at the helm as head cashier, and Bates is the assistant cashier.
Here’s a rare peek into the National Bank of Franklin circa 1925. Starting from the right, the employees pictured are Clifford McMahon, Bates Green, Thomas Johnson (bank president at that time), Sam Maury, Ed Green, and Florence Kennedy.
Fast-forward to the fall of 1926, and 64-year-old Ed is one of the largest real-estate owners in the county. His portfolio now includes his house on West Main Street, property on Boyd Mill and Del Rio Pikes, more than 3,000 acres throughout the county, and numerous rental homes, several of which are located in Hard Bargain, a largely African-American community in Franklin. (In fact, Green Street in that neighborhood is named after him.)
To the public, the Greens appear the picture of success, but in reality, they are in serious financial trouble. Ed has mortgaged and remortgaged most of his properties in a fruitless effort to stay out of debt, and Bates is battling a gambling problem.
To make matters worse, father and son have been engaging in illegal practices at the bank for the past 20 years—borrowing from depositor’s savings accounts to pay unearned dividends to themselves and the stockholders; falsifying entries on loan payments and diverting money from other accounts to cover the bank’s shortages; and helping themselves to valuables in the safety deposit boxes.
The Greens’ ill-gotten wealth is nothing more than a house of cards, and despite their best efforts to conceal their indiscretions, it’s only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.
THE UNRAVELING OF A TANGLED FINANCIAL WEB
The Green men’s downfall begins in late September 1926 when four sisters—Virginia, Elvira, Eliza, and Annie Claybrooke—come to Franklin from their farm in Triune. The women want to withdraw money from their savings accounts for a gift to the University of the South at Sewanee in honor of their brother, Frederick, who was killed in the Civil War.
The only problem: Not a cent of the sisters’ $33,000 (some reports say it was closer to $20,000) remains in their accounts. When Ed refuses to release the money, the ladies march across the square to the law office of their cousin, Captain Tom Henderson, and fill him in on the situation. Tom phones his friend, Governor Austin Peay, and requests a bank examiner be sent to Franklin.
It’s not long before investigators discover the sisters aren’t the only ones with missing funds. Authorities uncover a bank shortage of about $40,000, but it will be weeks before they learn how deep the hole truly is.
FROM REVERED CASHIER TO REVILED CROOK
On October 1, 1926, federal investigators alert bank directors that the Greens should be discharged. Bank President Thomas B. Johnson relieves the two men of their duties, but temporarily keeps Ed at his desk for appearance’s sake—if the public catches wind of the shortage, there could be a run on the bank.
Ed begs to be allowed to remain in his position until after his daughter Lucy’s upcoming nuptials to James Buford, but his request is denied. Instead, on October 5, bank officials demand both Greens’ immediate resignation. They instruct Ed to execute a mortgage as a security for the shortage.
Up to this point, both men have maintained their innocence, but the next day, Bates cracks and confesses to cooking the books. Ed’s admission comes a few minutes later, and he takes full responsibility, absolving his son from blame. However, neither man owns up to the full scope of the theft, allowing examiners to still believe the shortage is about $40,000.
The bank closes its doors on October 7, and the following day, both Greens are arrested and charged with misappropriation of national bank funds, making false reports, and creating fraudulent entries in bank books.
In later court testimony, Ed will claim the trouble began when he let a man who was in debt borrow $15,000. According to Ed, this loan is what started the shortage, which only grew over the years. His story may have been true, but when all is said and done, it will be abundantly clear Ed’s personal greed was to blame for the bank’s ultimate ruin.
AN ATTEMPT AT DAMAGE CONTROL
In an effort to make up the deficit, Ed mortgages about 5,000 acres—worth more than $260,000—including his beloved Turret Mansion. Meanwhile, the bank’s estimated shortage has crept up to $75,000, but even so, the public doesn’t seem all that worried yet. As The Tennessean reports the day after the shutdown, “There is apparently little concern in Franklin over personal loss, as a seeming reality exists that the properties of Mr. Green will more than cover the shortage.”
Released on $10,000 bond, Ed issues a written statement from his house: “I assume all blame for the present condition of the bank. I am, of course, sorry that this condition exists and would gladly give my life if that would rectify affairs.
“To protect the bank, its depositors, and my individual creditors, from loss, I am giving up everything that I own. The value of this property is more than sufficient to pay off everybody in full, and if properly handled and not forced upon the market and sacrificed, no one should lose one cent because of me.”
If only that were true.
“I HAD MORE FRIENDS THAN ANYBODY”
On October 16, the Green mens’ bonds are raised to $20,000 each, and they are rearrested on additional warrants. Investigators now suspect the shortage to be as high as $334,000, and the National Bank of Franklin is declared insolvent on October 18.
Again, Ed posts bond, but after a few days, he chooses to release his bondsmen and surrender himself at the Davidson County Jail. Though Ed denies knowledge of any threats of violence, newspaper reports indicate he asked to be locked up for his safety.
The Nashville Banner is granted a jailhouse interview with Ed, though he hardly appears as the typical inmate in his blue serge suit and a cigar in hand. The reporter describes 64-year-old Ed as looking “nearer 50, although the experiences of the past few weeks have apparently aged him a little more.” Ed tells the journalist he doesn’t believe the shortage to be as large as examiners think, but he intends to plead guilty nonetheless. “Before this happened,” he laments at the end of the interview, “I had more friends than anybody.”
FACING THE REPERCUSSIONS
In December, as the bank goes into receivership, a federal grand jury indicts Ed and Bates on 56 combined charges. Ed pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 years in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Bates pleads not guilty, claiming he’d tried to convince his father to straighten out the shortages, but Ed had refused and threatened suicide if exposed.
In April 1927, Bates receives 10 years in the same prison as his father. The Nashville Banner reports he accepts his sentence “stoically with a faint smile playing about his lips.” Afterwards, he holds an informal reception in the marshal’s office for friends who wish to tell him goodbye: “He laughed and chatted amiably, with no show of worry or remorse on his countenance.”
A TRAIL OF DEVASTATION
The following year, on October 24, 1927, an auction of Ed’s property—21 separate tracts of land—is held at the door of the Williamson County Courthouse. The Green home, once the site of so many happy memories and lavish parties, is sold to J.C. Fox for $8,000. The auction garners $135,908.45 and is the largest sale of real estate in the county.
The wreckage left in the wake of the Green men echoes far and wide. Though payments are made to depositors and creditors, it’s not nearly enough to cover the entire shortage. The city of Franklin takes a hard hit, losing nearly $30,000 of taxpayer money. Thanks to the Greens, the Great Depression arrives a few years early in Franklin.
Ed’s family suffers as well. With her husband imprisoned, Sallie is dethroned from her lofty position in Franklin society and turned out of her beautiful home under a cloud of shame. She has no choice but to move herself, her younger daughter, Marion, and her mother, Lucy Horton, to Two Rivers Farm on Del Rio Pike where Sallie’s elder daughter, Lucy Buford, lives with her husband.
Ed is paroled in February 1933 and relocates to Fresno, California to live with a sister. Bates serves his term and dies at his Franklin home on March 15, 1936 at the age of 50. Ed passes away almost two years later, and the family brings his body back to Franklin. They bury him at night in an unmarked grave in Mount Hope Cemetery.
A SECOND CHANCE FOR THE TURRET MANSION
Though the Greens’ tale is a tragic one, the string of homeowners in the years that followed have created a different trajectory for the Turret Mansion’s story. Harriet Harms, who still lives down the street, moved into the house during her late teen years with her parents, Harry and Marjorie Purvis. The home will forever hold a special place in Harriet’s heart as that’s where her husband proposed marriage. They later had their wedding reception there.
Harriet and Dennis Harms pose for a lovely photo on the front stairs (above) and front parlor (below) during their wedding reception.
When asked about her memories of the home, a certain event stands out in particular: “One day, there was a little knock on the door,” Harriet says, “so Mother went to the door, and it was a teeny-tiny, old lady. She said she used to live in this house when she was a child. It was one of Mr. Green’s daughters.” Harriet recalls showing her around the house, and when they got to the sleeping porch—which has since been enclosed and turned into a gazebo room—the woman stopped at the old cistern. “Those are my sister’s,” the lady said, motioning toward a set of handprints and footprints in the concrete around the water pump. She aimed her finger at another cluster of prints. “And those are mine.”
Harriet’s parents, Harry and Marjorie Purvis, sold the home in the mid-seventies to a couple who only lived there for a few years. In 1979, General William G. Moore, Jr., and his wife, Marjorie, purchased the property. William had recently retired from the United States Air Force as a highly decorated and honored four-star general, but he wasn’t done yet. In 1989, he was named president of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. He oversaw the construction of the airport’s present terminal, as well as two runways, the extension of a third, and a $35 million expansion of the facility’s parking garage.
The Moores renovated the house–it was during this time that the sleeping porch was enclosed, and the interior woodwork was painted white–and filled it with antiques, many of which Marjorie had collected while living in Europe. In 2011, Marjorie passed away, and William died six months later.
In 2013, Keith and Leslie Davis bought the home, and about eight years later, they sold it to the present-day owners, Ross and Lauren Blackburn.
A FAMILY’S NEW CHAPTER IN AN OLD HOUSE
In the summer of 2021, the Blackburns moved to Franklin from Boone, North Carolina where Ross continues to serve as Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican fellowship. He is commuting between the two states for the next several months to help the church transition into new leadership. Ross is a published author (check out his book The God Who Makes Himself Known here) and is in the midst of two other writing projects: a manuscript called Unveiling the Cross and a book entitled Ten Words of Life: The 10 Commandments, Abortion, and the Promise of the Gospel, which he will teach this June at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
Lauren also has a background in ministry—she studied modern dance in college, and after graduation, she joined Moving in the Spirit, a youth-development program in Atlanta that uses dance to teach social, emotional, and cognitive skills to young people.
The Blackburns have five children—William, 22; Anna, 19; Joseph, 17; and twins, Mary Katherine and Daniel, 8—all of whom are homeschooled. Their children are actually the reason why they moved to Franklin—the Blackburns wanted to take advantage of the more numerous educational opportunities in the area. And more specifically, they chose West Main Street to be near their oldest son, William. He settled in the nearby neighborhood of Hard Bargain after graduating from New College Franklin. “We wanted to be in proximity to William,” Lauren says. “We really just prayed, and there were two houses on this street on the market at the time.”
When Lauren first came across the Turret Mansion, she wasn’t immediately sure it was the right fit for her family. “Victorian is a little more ornate than what I would lean toward personally, but when I saw the inside, oh my goodness. I just loved the soft palette. It felt peaceful and calm.”
Indeed, the home is grand on the outside, but somehow, the interior feels more like a sanctuary rather than a sprawling estate. The Blackburns credit the Davises—the previous owners—for the house’s warmth. “This place has a very gracious spirit about it,” Ross says. “Keith and Leslie are uber-hospitable people, and I suspect this home has been a great blessing to a lot of people who came through here.”
A RENOVATION OF HISTORIC PROPORTIONS
During the Davises’ time here, they went to great lengths to update the house while preserving the character of the historic home. According to Leslie Davis, the home was in good condition structurally when they bought it in 2013, but it hadn’t been updated since 1979 and needed significant restoration. “We knew this house was special and always felt as though we were stewards of this part of Franklin’s history,” Leslie says. “We did our best to think long-term in the details of every project.”
The Davises converted the downstairs fireplaces (there are nine in the entire house) from coal-burning to gas, but in keeping with the age of the home, gas coal baskets were installed instead of gas logs. Aside from the switch to gas, each fireplace retains its original design, ranging from dainty, Tiffany Blue tilework in the parlor to a more masculine aesthetic in the study with a wooden overmantel and heavy millwork.
The charming fireplace in the kitchen makes the space feel extra cozy.
In addition to the fireplaces, they modernized the house’s nuts and bolts—all of the plumbing, wiring, and HVAC units have been replaced.
The Davises even discovered this toy soldier in one of the walls during renovations.
Unlike so many old homes that have settled and shifted over the years, no uneven floors can be found in the Green-Blackburn House. I-beams and Ellis construction jacks, the same kind used to shore up skyscrapers, were installed under the residence to level the floors. “I was sold when I saw the basement,” Ross says. “[The Davises] jacked the whole thing up, cleaned it out, dug it out.”
A HOME SWATHED IN HISTORY
Let’s take a proper tour of the home, starting with the exterior. Glimpses of the past can be seen before you even step foot on the property of this circa-1896 charmer. A hitching post and an upping stone by the sidewalk call to mind the days when the clip-clop of hooves were still heard on the streets.
Upping stones were used by ladies and children to climb up to or down from horse-drawn carriages. In those pre-automobile years, these stones were status symbols since only the wealthy could afford carriages. They also represented a rite of passage into manhood—it was a point of pride when a boy no longer needed the boost provided by the stone.
AN ENTRANCE THAT WILL MAKE YOU GREEN WITH ENVY
A brick path leads from the sidewalk to the home’s porch, which is edged with Ionic, fluted columns.
The Green-Blackburn House’s inviting entrance and pretty brick path makes this home one of the belles of West Main Street.
A rectangle of intricate tilework on the porch floor serves as a welcome mat of sorts for the front door, which is original and a work of art in its own right with stunning wood details and a leaded-glass window.
A SWOON-WORTHY INTERIOR
The interior retains most of its original features, including the heart-pine floors, ornate door hinges, and seven stained-glass windows. And speaking of windows, the Davises added new sash cords to the Victorian, double-hung windows and kept the original weights.
A close-up of the sash cords on the original windows shows some of this home’s unique details.
Even the foyer is a well-appointed space with a fireplace and a staircase trimmed with a dazzling array of spindlework and two inlaid-wood newel posts. The stairway walls are adorned with elegant molding and leather wallpaper, both original to the house.
No detail was overlooked on this staircase.
The view from the front door shows the elaborate staircase, foyer fireplace, original wood floors, fabulous chandeliers, and plantation shutters.
The original leather wallpaper lines the beautiful staircase.
To the right of the foyer, pocket doors open to the parlor, a sun-soaked room with a twinkling silver-and-crystal light fixture suspended from the ceiling. One can only imagine the guests who were entertained in this elegant space over the years.
On the far left of the parlor, another set of pocket doors leads to a dining room that features a built-in window seat and china cabinet topped with the same spindlework as the staircase.
The kitchen has been redone, but the updated space doesn’t feel out of sync with the rest of the house.
A brick fireplace adds a charming touch, and the Italian Calacatta marble countertops and tile create a timeless look.
An office, two bathrooms, and the window-lined, gazebo room round out the first floor.
Upstairs, there’s four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and Lauren’s study, which includes an alcove formed by the turret. When asked what her favorite detail of the home is, she unequivocally chooses this space: “I just love that turret. It’s like a castle. It’s a magical part of the house.”
The turret room is lined with a portion of the Blackburn’s extensive book collection.
The master bedroom is a cozy retreat with its own fireplace.
A SHIFT FROM THE COUNTRY TO COMMUNITY
Before their move to Franklin, the Blackburns enjoyed a bucolic life on 26 acres near Boone, North Carolina. “We had a pond and a creek and hundreds of trees to climb,” Lauren says. “The kids went out in the morning and sometimes didn’t come back until lunch. Very much a fairytale sort of place.”
During their 17 years in the country, the Blackburns didn’t have close neighbors, and since their move, they’ve embraced the community that comes with living in a subdivision. “We were warmly welcomed,” Ross says. “Cookies, bread, donuts. People were very gracious.”
The family has also taken advantage of their proximity to downtown Franklin by often walking to Main Street for coffee, dinner, or shopping. “It’s like we’ve landed in Mayberry,” Lauren says. “This is old-world America. There’s a reason it’s become the mecca that it is. Our kids have said, ‘Man, every other person you meet is a Christian.’ I’ve never lived in a place where you go to the grocery store, and strangers say, ‘Oh, excuse me…No, after you.’”
A STORY STILL BEING WRITTEN
The Turret Mansion may have had a rocky start with the Greens, but thanks to the Blackburns, the Davises, and the families that preceded them, the home’s story didn’t end there. Rather than being a tragedy, its legacy is one of second chances and new beginnings. After more than a hundred years, the tale of the Green-Blackburn House is still being written, but I’d venture a guess it will include a happy ending.
Thank you to Rick Warwick for the historic photos and Trenton Lee Photography for the gorgeous pictures of the Green-Blackburn House. You can see more of Trent’s work here.
A considerable portion of my novel Finding Franklin is set in the Green-Blackburn House. I took some artistic liberties in my description of the exterior, but the interior is largely based on this home. The book tells the story of a woman who was abandoned as an infant on a doorstep in Franklin and returned to solve the mystery of her birth. You can purchase signed copies of Finding Franklin at Landmark Booksellers on East Main Street, and unsigned copies are available on Amazon.
Thank you to Trenton Lee Photography for the beautiful photos. We also greatly appreciate Rick Warwick for allowing us access to the historic pictures of Franklin.
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