Step Inside Eggleston Place – Franklin’s Most Exclusive Mansion

On a sunny December morning, Marianne Menefee Byrd opened the doors of her historic Eggleston Place to Lovely Franklin and some special guests. Located at 203 3rd Avenue North, the home was built in 1880.

When Franklin was first established, there were 192 original lots laid out by founder, Abram Maury, who donated most of the land. The downtown was sectioned off into 16 identical blocks with 12 lots per block. Eggleston Place is located on lot 100. Read Abram Maury’s backstory here.

Abram Maury | Franklin TN Founder | Lovely Franklin TN

The impressive white mansion at Eggleston Place with its large columns and inviting white porch entices many a passerby. Marianne explained that sometimes people arrive at the house expecting a tour because they think that all of these historic homes are open to the public. This one is not.

As the group gathered in the foyer next to the majestic staircase decorated for Christmas and underneath a spectacular chandelier, introductions were made.

The Home of Judge Josiah Eggleston’s Famous Family

“This was Judge Josiah Eggleston and Julia Plummer Eggleston’s house, and this is Marietta Mayberry Eggleston Burleigh their granddaughter,” Buffie with Lovely Franklin gestured to the petite woman with a kind smile.

Trish Eggleston Stiles, Marianne Menefee Byrd, and Marietta Mayberry Eggleston Burleigh

Judge Eggleston (pictured in the center below) was a prominent Franklin judge. He was famous for his portly stature, business skills, and community involvement.

The Drug Store Club

The Eggleston family originally lived near Bethesda and Flat Creek. Judge J.C. Eggleston came to Franklin with his family, and they all became leading citizens.

“My mother was Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston,” Marietta said proudly, “We had Beechwood Hall and then Riverview.” Eggleston Place and Riverview, at 151 Franklin Road, are both protected in Franklin’s historic overall. All of these homes, including Beechwood Hall, are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry Hunter Mayberry Riverview Franklin TN

Sophronia married the Eggleston’s son, Edmond “Ned” Eggleston, and they had two children Josiah Carr “Joe” and Marietta Mayberry Eggleston Burleigh. Sophronia was the daughter of Henry Hunter Mayberry and Marietta Watson Mayberry who lived at Riverview. Henry’s father built Beechwood Hall and Marietta’s mother, built the Watson House.

Henry Hunter Mayberry Riverview Franklin TN
Henry Hunter Mayberry, Henry, Jr. Mayberry, Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston, Thomas Mayberry, and wife Marietta Watson Mayberry, courtesy of Rick Warwick

Read the Lovely Franklin backstories that are connected to Eggleston Place: Beechwoood Hall and Riverview, along with the Watson House here.

Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston at the 1930 Franklin Flower Show

Buffie continued making introductions,“ This is Trish Eggleston Stiles who is Marietta’s niece and great granddaughter of Judge Eggleston, and this is Leonora Nunnelly Green Clifford who is Trish’s cousin on the Mayberry and Beechwood Hall side of the family.”

The above photo was taken at “Vernon” in Hickman County. Standing in the top row left is Louise Figuers Bailey Nunnelly and center is Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston. On the far right is Josiah Carr “Joe” Eggleston and to the left of him is Louise Bailey Nunnelly, Leonora’s mother. Seated second from right is Eunetta Mayberry.

Franklin’s Mother-Daughter Preservationists

Buffie then introduced Anne Cain who owned Eggleston Place from December 1989 until October 1992. While Anne was renovating Eggleston Place, her mother, Mildred Joy Cowan, was in the process of renovating the Campbell-Bacon house at 224 4th Ave S.

These mother-daughter preservationists had the neighbors scratching their heads. They could not understand why anyone would spend so much money renovating two old homes. Read the backstory of the Campbell-Bacon House here.

Campbell-Bacon Home -Mildred Cowan - Anne Cain - Lovely Franklin TN
Anne Cain and Mildred Joy Cowan renovating the Campbell-Bacon House

Anne is the great-granddaughter of Thomas Chaplin Joy. He was the founder of the oldest floral company in America, Joy Floral Company, established in 1877. Tom Joy Elementary school in Nashville is named after him.

“This is Anne’s son Austin Pennington,” Buffie continued, “He is a local builder here and has a very successful career.”

Austin Pennington, Marianne Menefee Byrd, and Anne Cain

Austin was a child when his grandmother and mother were renovating their historic downtown Franklin homes. This experience fueled Austin’s lifelong passion for home building. He now owns Barlow Builders, a luxury custom home building company. Austin was there to tour his childhood home, and enjoyed seeing his old bedroom. 

The Home of the Iroquois Steeplechase

Buffie then introduced Marianne Menefee Byrd, the current owner of Eggleston Place.

“I bought the home from my mother’s estate and my father had bought it as a ‘not for better or for worse, but not for lunch house’. This house became his office so he didn’t sit at home all day driving my mother crazy,” Marianne said, and everyone laughed.

Located just two blocks from Public Square, this home is in the very heart of historic downtown Franklin. It’s nestled between Main Street, the Harpeth River, and Bicentennial Park.

Marianne and her husband Andrew Byrd are second generation benefactors of Iroquois Steeplechase. Marianne has attended all but two of the races. She grew up riding horses on her family’s farm in Brentwood, Tennessee. Andrew’s great uncle, Rogers Caldwell, was one of the race’s founders. Marianne’s father, Albert Menefee, raced at Steeplechase during the 1940’s and 50’s. Her father actually won the race in 1950.

Andrew and Marianne Menefee Byrd

Andrew and Marianne serve as philanthropists and board members for various hospitals and non-profits throughout Tennessee. Under their leadership, the Iroquois Steeplechase continues to be a successful annual event at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. Eggleston Place is currently used as their offices for the Volunteer State Horsemen’s Foundation. They have donated over $11 Million to local charities.

The Restoration of a 200-Year Old Mansion

“This house did not look like this at all,” Austin explained, “There was a point where this was a retirement home. It was very odd. It was just bad.”

Anne Byrd decorating for Christmas at Eggleston Place

Anne brought a photo album of the renovations. There was a photographer studio across the street, and Anne hired Sam Causey to take professional pictures to show the transformation.

“This house was in rough shape and took well over a year and a half to renovate,” explained Austin. “We had to take out the real horsehair plaster.”

As we began the tour, Anne and her son Austin were in awe of how everything was still the same. The wallpaper Anne had lovingly selected still hung on the walls. The thick curtains she had custom made in 1990 for the dining room remained.

The beautiful illuminated coffered ceiling in the den that Anne had Russian impressionist artist Murat Kaboulav paint remained. Born and educated in Russia, Murat lived and worked in Brentwood, Tennessee and studied at The Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. His works can be found in many art museums throughout Russia, as well as in private collections all over the world, including Eggleston Place!

The brick that Anne chose to reveal in the kitchen was a design choice ahead of its time. Even the commercial grade stove and refrigerator have not been replaced. 

Austin explained, “A commercial grade kitchen had never been done before in Franklin.”

“That was a selling point for my father,” Marianne said, “he loved that kitchen.”

“I gutted this bad boy,” Anne recalled, “my ex-husband was a builder and my father an architect, so it’s in my blood. I love it. I think it’s just timeless.”

“No one ever put real money into a home, let alone two homes in downtown Franklin ever,” Austin said, “For me being a young kid and watching how things were really built, deconstructed when you pull away all the dirt to see what’s underneath the house was really cool. I don’t think many people can say that they’ve really seen that.”

The Setting of an American Children’s Book Series

“What I love about this house is that it’s a famous house,” Buffie explained, “and was included in Katie Shands‘ article, “Tour 8 of Franklin’s Most Charming Historic Homes”. Eggleston Place was the setting of a best-selling children’s book series, Those Plummer Children by Christine Noble Govan.” If you are lucky, you can still find rare copies on eBay and used bookstores.

Christine Noble Govan was an American author. She was born in New York City and lived most of her life in Chattanooga, Tennessee and as a child, lived in Franklin. With more than 50 children’s novels to her credit, she was one of Tennessee’s most prolific authors.

Eggleston Place was the setting for her 1930s children’s series Those Plummer Children based on the Eggleston family. The author lived nearby on Fair Street and enjoyed a close relationship with Mrs. Eggleston and grew up with her children. “Plummer” was the maiden name of Julia Plummer Eggleston, her adopted mother-figure.

Those Plummer Children was based on the Eggleston children

The book’s dedication reads, “To my parents and my foster mother Julia Plummer Eggleston and to the memory of Judge Joseph (misprinted, but should be Josiah) Carr Eggleston, who was the best friend any child ever had.” 

Austin found original copies of the series and gifted them to Leonora

Govan was an early member of the NAACP and supported the civil rights movement. Her best-selling trilogy Those Plummer Children focused on interracial friendships and became an important bridge in discussing these relationships. In 1998, Govan was inducted into the Williamson County Authors’ Hall of Fame in Franklin, Tennessee.

The History of Eggleston Place

In July 1888, John M. and May W. Gault sold the empty lot at the corner of 3rd Avenue North and  Bridge Street to Andrew Vaughn. He served in the 11th Tennessee Cavalry during the Civil War and was a builder of houses and a brick maker in Franklin. He built this house and sold it to Josiah Carr Eggleston for $3,600 in December of 1896.

Judge Josiah Carr Eggleston

Judge Josiah Eggleston added the front porch and columns in 1897. He and his wife, Julia Plummer Eggleston, had four daughters, Mary, Julia, Josephine, Elsie, and a son “Ned”.

Judge Josiah Eggleston outside his law office on Franklin’s Public Square

Josiah was a lawyer and then became a judge. His office was in the northeast corner of Franklin’s downtown square, in between the City offices and the old Post Hotel. Judge Eggleston was a tall man that weighed almost 300 pounds. Currently, his old office is the home of Fifth Third Bank, which is adjacent to where Onyx & Alabaster is today in the corner of Public Square.

Julia Plummer Eggleston

Julia Plummer Eggleston inherited the house after her husband’s death on October 6, 1928. Her grandfather, James Ransom Plummer, had been a highly esteemed merchant in Nashville.

Bethesda High School 1937- 38

The above photo is Bethesda High School where Julia’s daughter, Josephine Eggleston, (first row, far right standing) and son, Ned Eggleston, (second row, third from the right in the vest) attended high school. Ned later served in World War I in the 114th Field Artillery. After the war, he became an attorney and married Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston, the Southern belle who lived at Riverview. Her father, Henry Hunter Mayberry, was the owner of the Interurban Railway that ran between Franklin and Nashville in the late 1800s.

Sophronia Mayberry Eggleston

Sophronia was a teacher at Franklin High school for many years. She became a member of the first faculty at Harpeth Hall School, where she taught history and was a member of Franklin First United Methodist Church. She was a well respected Franklinite.

Former Franklin Mayor Lillian Stewart, and a former student of Mrs. Eggleston’s at Harpeth Hall School, said, “She was a person of great dignity who held tremendous commitment to traditional values and to her teaching. She believed, ‘To whom much is given, much will be expected.’ She influenced her students to strive for the highest in academic achievement.”

Avalyn Berry Swain and Eunetta | Lovely Franklin TN
Marietta Mayberry Eggleston (middle) and her cousin Eunetta Mayberry (right) and friend Avalyn Berry Swain (left) – photo credit: Avalyn Berry Swain, Growing Up in Franklin

Her children were Josiah “Joe” Carr Eggleston and Marietta Mayberry Eggleston Burleigh. Joe attended Battle Ground Academy, an all-boys academy at the time. Marrietta was named BGA’s first homecoming queen, but attended Franklin High School.

BGA’s First Homecoming Queen Miss Marietta Mayberry Eggleston

Joe graduated from Vanderbilt University and worked at Harpeth National Bank. We were grateful to have his sister Marietta and daughter Trish on the Eggleston Place tour that day.

Joe & Judy Eggleston pictured on the left at a party

After Mrs. Julia Plummer Eggleston died in 1940, her children sold Eggleston Place to Mrs. Louise Hanna Reed. Mrs. Reed then sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Ike Bryan. The Bryans then sold it to General and Mrs. Jacob McGavock Dickinson. General Dickinson came from a long line of important Tennessee families, including Jacob McGavock and Felix Grundy.

New owner Brigadier-General Jacob McGavock Dickinson Jr. was an attorney, breeder of Arabian horses, and World War I veteran. He was appointed to lead the Middle Tennessee component of the Tennessee State Guard. His father, Jacob McGavock Dickinson, was a prominent Nashville attorney and served as the United States Secretary of War under President William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1911. His mother, Martha Overton Dickinson, was the granddaughter of John Overton, Nashville pioneer who lived at Travellers Rest and was the “The Founder of Memphis” on land he owned with his best friends, Andrew Jackson and James Winchester. 

Brigadier-General Jacob McGavock Dickinson, Jr.

After Mrs. Dickinson became a widow in 1963, she remarried Hinton Fort Longino, and they divided their time between Eggleston Place and a home in Atlanta. When Anne Cain bought it in 1989, it had been used as a retirement home. Her painstaking restoration has been enjoyed for over three decades. Thanks to Anne Cain, along with Andrew and Marianne Menefee Byrd, Eggleston Place remains one of the most charming homes in Franklin.

This home honors its Tennessee history, along with a love for horses and giving back to others.

Marianne shared, “Andrew and I are enjoying becoming a small part of the community that is the historic district – learning more about our structure has been a welcome gift.”

We so appreciate these great stewards of historic homes. In 2002, Eggleston Place received an award for Outstanding Stewardship presented by the Heritage Foundation.

Thank you as always to Williamson County Historian Rick Warwick for allowing us access to his collection of historic photos. We also appreciate Trenton Lee Photography and his beautiful photography of the home.

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