As you enter downtown Franklin along 3rd Avenue South, you’ll notice a charming stone bungalow on the right side just before the beautiful blue Queen Anne style home two blocks from the Public Square. This 1926 home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is owned by two of Franklin’s most beloved residents, Bob and Lisa Ravener and is full of both historic and architectural surprises.
It has a cool factor that harkens back to the age of Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald himself would be intrigued by this home’s fascinating backstory! The cast of characters includes an American president, U.S. senator, the founder of Franklin, the mayor of Franklin during the Civil War, a Grand Ole Opry star, a downtown Franklin legend, and a U.S. Naval officer. You’ll have to keep reading to the end to learn all the exciting details of this story!
An Officer and a Lady
Let’s start with the current stewards of this property, and then we will go back to the beginning where it all started. Bob and Lisa Ravener met through Lisa’s older sister, after hearing about each other for a few years.
In October of Bob’s senior year, they finally met in Annapolis at the Naval Academy when Lisa came with her sister and brother-in-law for a football weekend. Bob is a 1981 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.
He served almost six years in the U.S. Navy as a submarine officer and in the Reserves after leaving active duty. He also played and coached for the Navy’s baseball team. Read this fun story Bob wrote about his experience with Cal Ripken, Jr. here.
After Bob and Lisa’s initial meeting, they began a great friendship and later, a beautiful marriage. They have three adult children, two of whom live in Franklin, along with four grandchildren.
After leaving the Navy, Bob earned his MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He worked for several major companies including PepsiCo, Home Depot, Starbucks, and was eventually recruited and became the “Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer” for Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.
The Raveners moved into their first Tennessee home in Brentwood. Once their children grew up and moved out, Bob decided to retire from the corporate world and focus on many volunteer efforts. They had always liked downtown Franklin with its walkability, shops and history. After looking at several options, they chose the charming 1926 Fleming-Mizell stone bungalow is just a couple blocks from Franklin’s Public Square.
Bob explains, “Location to everything downtown was a big driver, and we also realized that finding homes within a short walk did not come on the market very often, so we quickly decided on this one when it became available.”
Many Early and Historic Franklin Stewards of the Property
From the first sale, this property has always been listed as original lot 87 and since the time Abram Maury plotted it, many prominent figures in early Franklin owned it. The first was William Smith, one of the listed early settlers in the area and county clerk in Williamson County. There was William Hulme, county sheriff when the first circuit court was established in 1811, whose brother was George Hulme, a Revolutionary War veteran, Franklin resident, and second husband to Anthony Sharpe’s widow. John Eaton, former U.S. Senator, Secretary of War, and officer in Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee militia during the War of 1812 once owned the property. Jesse Benton, brother of Thomas Hart Benton, also has a reported tie to the home as well. More recently, Bob and Lisa purchased the home from Mike and Nancy Williams. Mike served five terms as State Representative and his wife Nancy served 17 years as Main Street Program Director for the Downtown Franklin Association.
Nancy commented, “We loved our 12 years in this home. She really shines now with the Raveners. Old Franklin shared lots of stories with us, and it was the site of many fabulous parties. That house, and especially that original lot, is a town character.”
Many of these stories will be told later in the text but from this summary, the reader can see that while this home might be from the early twentieth century, the property is witness to and has been owned by some local historic luminaries. Read on.
Jesse Benton’s Basement
This is probably one of the coolest and most significant stories about this home’s history. The original dirt floor cellar exposed the 1800s foundation of the previous home on the site where legend and documents mention that Jesse Benton built and possibly once lived with his family. Jesse was notorious for having shot Andrew Jackson during a fight with him and his brother Thomas Hart Benton. You will learn all about this a bit later in this story. After the Bentons, the original house became the home of William Johnson.
To gain extra space in the basement, the Raveners had the cellar painstakingly excavated with shovels and buckets to create enough head room to finish the space. They added a lovely, chilled wine cellar and finished storage area.
While not a large area, the wine cellar can hold quite a few bottles. In addition, a new custom door was added and then painted and stenciled to look aged, with real antique bronze door knobs and door plates.
PRESERVING HISTORY ONE STEP AT A TIME
The Ravener home is likely one of the early home facades in the country built with Tennessee Crab Orchard stone. Prior to the 20th century, this stone had only been used for chimneys and foundations because insufficient tools made the titanium-laced stone too difficult to cut. Crab Orchard stone is a rare sandstone quarried from Crab Orchard Mountain in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.
This technique became more prominently used in the early 1920s. Crab orchard stone now adorns many landmarks and has also been used for hardscapes in such notable homes as the U.S. vice president’s mansion and FDR’s Hyde Park pool. You can also find this stone in the new Country Music Hall of Fame Museum and Scarritt College in Nashville.
At the Ravener’s bungalow, that same stone adorns the front sunroom. During renovation, each stone had to be removed. The doorway location was shifted, and the stone reinstalled much like a big jigsaw puzzle.
The mortar joints were artistically period-crafted with rounded edges giving a real craftsman bungalow flair. The hand-kilned floor bricks are each slightly different, and combined with the stone and wooden exterior-like finishes, the room and corresponding portico look original to the home.
The solid oak bones of the floor joists, studs and rafters made for a strong foundation. The challenging part was the old knob-and-tube wiring and outdated air flow, plumbing, single pane windows with little insulation. Not only that, but they also had to contend with an awkward floor plan that included a sub-standard addition.
The home was taken down to original oak studs and joists to remove old wiring, plumbing, and HVAC which provided the opportunity to re-imagine the home’s layout with a gorgeous first-floor master suite and panoramic open living space focused on a beautiful backyard. To make the home more enjoyable, a steam shower and heated floor was added to the primary bathroom.
We are so grateful for the historic overlay in downtown Franklin that protects homes like this and promotes preservation. There is a process to the restoration of homes in the overlay with the Historic Zoning Commission. It is composed of nine citizen appointees who represent the discipline of architecture, history or historic preservation, the local planning commission, and the community in general. Their mission is to preserve and protect Franklin’s historic resources through identification, designation, and design review.
LISA’S INCREDIBLE GIFT OF INTERIOR DESIGN
Lisa’s eye for design has created a home that’s both comfortable for a modern family and honors the property’s history. Along the way, she leaned on the creative expertise of a few other designers such as JoAnne Haynes, Sarah Hill, and Lisa Selvig, with extensive finishing touches over the last several months of the project with good friend and designer, Christine Forte. The stone bungalow may have a rich past, but its future with the Raveners promises to be just as bright. Now let’s see the rest of the home!
The foyer features the grand staircase two-story ceiling to make the entrance feel grander and more spacious. The rich hardwoods add elegance and warmth as you enter the home from the impressive front door.
When we entered the main living space to see the kitchen, it literally took our breath away. Lisa did not spare any detail when designing the perfect kitchen. It’s bright, luxurious, spacious, and has all the modern appliances. The best part is that it’s open to the living room and backyard so it’s perfect for enjoying family and friends.
The renovations have helped the home flow beautifully. The open-concept kitchen, dining and living area is absolutely stunning. The large wooden ceiling beam delineates where the original home ended Lisa’s design choices in colors, finishes, lighting, and furnishings are impeccable. You instantly feel comfortable, welcomed, and at home.
A new fireplace was added to the living area and designed to look original with sharp-edged gray stone facing and an old barn beam for a mantel. Either side is adorned with built in shelving, custom antiqued, and shiplap accents.
Lisa incorporates local artwork, whimsical pieces, and historical art pieces to add charm, history and lightness throughout the home. Isn’t that chandelier a stunner?
The main living space consists of eleven-inch character grade oak floors. This helps continue the vintage aesthetic. The main hall even makes an impact with artistic, hand-cut herringbone accents.
Once you’re inside the home, you would never know it was located on a busy downtown thoroughfare. As a replacement for the exterior storm windows, Bob selected interior noise-reducing, energy-efficient storm windows. This provides a quiet and peaceful setting inside the home.
During the renovation, a 1980s addition was completely removed and rebuilt with dormers and additional bedrooms and baths upstairs along with a second living area, focused on entertainment and games.
The Raveners had a basement dug underneath the first floor of the carriage house to create a theater room with ten-foot ceilings, complete with wet bar and half bath. Notice the nod to Bob’s days as a PepsiCo executive.
Outdoor living was also important for Bob and Lisa and where they spend most of their free time. The space was so beautifully done that it has become one of the key attractions for the home. It features a covered porch that is cooled with a 1920s-era replica fan, a reflection pool that doubles as a hot tub or fountain, along with a blue stone splash pad/Baja deck for staying cool in the hot Tennessee summers. An outdoor gas grill complements the outdoor space off the back side of the home. It is perfect for family gatherings and entertaining guests.
A large maple tree anchors one side of the backyard, saved and nourished instead of being cut down with the construction challenges. The connecting breezeway between the main house and carriage house is softened with greenery hanging from locally purchased metal trellises. Interestingly, 3rd Avenue was at one time called Maple Avenue.
An almost 200-year-old red oak tree towers over the yard, providing shade in the summer. To keep it properly irrigated, permeable stone pavers were installed in that section of the driveway, allowing rainwater to soak down into the root system.
A two-car cinder block garage that wasn’t even on the property plat was removed and replaced with what looks to be a one-car carriage house of the 1920s period, when horse carriages and Ford’s Model T’s still shared the roads. Surprisingly, it is actually a two-car, rear-loading garage with a front drive-through. It includes an office and full bath on the main level and a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor. This was a genius design choice to complement a 1920s home with additional vehicle storage and useful space that fits perfectly into varied 2020s lifestyles. Almost one hundred years apart, the results are flawless!
The home’s yard became the first certified Tennessee Smart Yard in Franklin and also certified as a bird sanctuary with a combination of native pollinator plants, shrubs, and trees accented with water features making it an attractive habitat for bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. The backyard aura is so natural that anyone visiting feels as if they have left an urban area and entered a secret garden sanctuary.
Everything about Bob and Lisa’s home is a dream from the historic exterior, stunning interior, and the immaculate landscaping, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect property. Not to mention, it’s just two blocks from Main Street!
The home’s vintage and contemporary lighting seamlessly integrates into the home complementing the new-meets-old allure. Fun features include a front porch light in the shape of a single light traffic signal that an early twentieth century resident would have seen, while the goose neck and industrial lights both inside and out appeal to a bygone era.
A RICH LEGACY ON THIRD AVENUE SOUTH
Another fascinating fact about the home is that it’s one of the original lots laid out in 1799, by town founder Abram Maury, Lot 87, which is very special, considering it was created just three years after Tennessee became a state.
Several prominent residents lived on the property since it was founded with the current dwelling being built in 1926. You are going to love the history and all the interesting people who called this place home.
A VAST WILDERNESS
The Raveners’ home has a string of noteworthy names connected to it, but to properly tell the story, we should begin with the land it sits on. Let’s time travel back to the late 18th century before Franklin was even in existence.
In those days, this part of Tennessee was a vast wilderness of grasses, primeval trees, and lush undergrowth. Native Americans hunted in the thick forests, and few permanent, white settlements had been established.
In 1788, North Carolina issued a land grant of 3,840 acres in this area to Captain Anthony Sharpe for his service in the Revolutionary War. At that time, Captain Sharpe’s property was located in Davidson County. Shortly after this, he sold 640 acres to Abram Maury, a civil engineer and planter from Virginia.
On October 26, 1799, Williamson County was incorporated in the southern portion of Davidson, which included Abram’s acreage. That same day, the General Assembly passed an act to establish a town in Williamson County. It was to be named “Franklin” and would sit on a portion of Abram’s land.
THE BIRTH OF FRANKLIN
The town of Franklin was Abram’s brainchild. After purchasing the land from Captain Sharpe, Abram set aside a corner in the bend of the Harpeth River for a village. Being a surveyor, he laid out the sixteen blocks himself, which included a public square in the exact center of the plat. The plan consisted of 192 lots, and number 87 is where the Raveners’ house sits today. To read more about Abram Maury and the origin story of Franklin, check out this Lovely Franklin article.
Abram sold each lot for $10, and by the end of 1800, more than 65 lots had been purchased. William Smith, one of Franklin’s earliest lawyers, became the first owner of lot 87 where the Ravener’s home is located today. William bought it on November 27, 1802.
A TENNESSEE LEGEND MOVES IN
Two historic sources indicate Jesse Benton lived in a home on lot 87 in the early 1800s. He was the brother of Thomas Hart Benton, a successful attorney based out of Franklin who later became a United States senator. Jesse’s legacy is a bit more infamous–he is best known for shooting Andrew Jackson. Jesse married Mary Childress in Williamson County in 1817.
No known images of Jesse have survived the years, but below is a picture of his brother, Thomas Hart Benton. They were the original pioneer family who established modern-day Leiper’s Fork.
The Benton brothers, along with their widowed mother and six other siblings, moved to Williamson County from Hillsborough, North Carolina around 1800. They helped their mother establish a homestead on a large tract of land that had been acquired by their late father. Jesse would have been about 17 years old at that time.
The community around their farm came to be known as Bentontown. It was later renamed Hillsboro, presumably after the Bentons’ previous town. Today, this area is called Leiper’s Fork.
In 1806, Thomas began to practice law from a small, brick office in Franklin near the courthouse. If Jesse did live on lot 87, he likely moved there around this same time.
THE INFAMOUS BRAWL WITH OLD HICKORY
The Benton brothers were reportedly a hot-tempered pair, a quality that got them into a fair share of trouble. The most noteworthy incident occurred in 1813 when Jesse and Thomas were involved in a vicious brawl with Andrew Jackson who supposedly also had a short fuse.
The disagreement stemmed from an earlier duel between Jesse and William B. Carroll where Jackson had acted as Carroll’s second.
During the brawl, Jesse was shot in the rear end and received much public ridicule for his injury. Thomas, who had been close with Jackson, began criticizing the future president for his role in the conflict, and this caused a fracture in their friendship.
Shortly after the incident, the Benton brothers were staying in Nashville and happened to encounter Jackson and Colonel John Coffee at the City Hotel.
Needless to say, neither party was happy to see the other. Jackson came at Thomas with a raised horse whip, and said “Now defend yourself, you damned rascal!” Thomas reached into his breast pocket for his pistol. Jackson drew his gun, but Jesse jumped to his brother’s defense and fired a shot into Jackson’s left shoulder.
Chaos ensued with knives, pistols, and swords being wielded by multiple men. When the dust finally cleared, Jesse was cut in several places, and Jackson was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. He had to be carried back to his room at the Nashville Inn where he was expected to die. Doctors advised Jackson to amputate him arm, but he didn’t and eventually recovered with the bullet remaining in his body. Instead, he made a miraculous recovery.
Thomas Hart Benton declared victory by breaking Jackson’s sword across his knee in the public square. In later years, his friendship with Thomas was mended, but things between Jackson and Jesse remained hostile for the remainder of the men’s lives. Thomas Hart Benton would later become a US Senator from Missouri, reconcile with Jackson, and eventually became close friends with President Jackson.
Jesse moved his wife Mary and family moved to West Tennessee and then to Texas. Jesse was a Colonel in 1836 in the Texas Rangers during The War of Texas Independence. Later, they moved to Louisiana where he became ill, wrote his will and died in 1843. Mary Benton was determined not to leave her husband in an unmarked grave in Louisiana. In 1847 Mary and her nephew John W. Martin bought a lot in City Cemetery at the corner of City Avenue and Mulberry Avenue where Jesse had been buried.
It is the oldest continuously operated public cemetery in Nashville. Four of Nashville’s first settlers are buried there, James Roberton, founder of Nashville and his wife Charlotte, along with John Robertson Cockrill and his wife Anne (James Robertson’s sister). Anne became the first woman to receive a land grant in Tennessee. William Carroll later served as the fifth Governor of Tennessee. Ironically, he is also buried in Nashville’s City Cemetery very near Jesse Benton!
In 1852, Mary purchased 38 acres off what is now Granny White Pike in Nashville. She named it “Sunnyside.” It is currently located in Servier Park and is being restored by Metro Parks. During the Civil War, the Benton family vacated the property. Interestingly, dentist L.G. Noel lived in the home for 45 years. He was a cousin to the Edwin Noel whose brothers John and Oscar Noel started the Noel Hotel. Read our backstory on the hotel and Franklin’s NOEL sign.
ANOTHER CONNECTION TO TENNESSEE POLITICS
On April 3, 1815, John H. Eaton and John Sample bought the house at lot 87. While it’s unclear whether either man actually lived on the property, it is interesting to note the events that unfolded in Eaton’s life during and after his ownership of lot 87.
When Eaton purchased the property in April of 1815, he would have only recently returned with Andrew Jackson after the monumental January 8 Battle of New Orleans. Eaton was a prominent Franklin attorney and a member of Tennessee’s House of Representatives. Though he wasn’t yet well-known beyond Franklin, he was one of Andrew Jackson’s closest confidantes. Just a year after Eaton bought lot 87, he was hired to finish writing Old Hickory’s biography.
The original author, John Reid (Abram Maury’s son-in-law), had died after writing only four chapters. Eaton completed the book from his house in Franklin. (Again, it’s unclear whether he was living on lot 87 or elsewhere in town.) The biography was titled The Life of Andrew Jackson and became a bestseller.
Today, first editions (1817) of this book are so rare that even the Library of Congress doesn’t have an undamaged copy.
Eaton went on to have an impressive political career. Two years after completing the book, he was elected to a Senate seat, and during Jackson’s presidency, he served on his cabinet as secretary of war. Eaton and his beautiful wife, Margaret (also known as “Peggy”), were later embroiled in a scandal called “The Petticoat Affair.” You can read more about John and Peggy Eaton here.
A LINK TO FRANKLIN ROYALTY
Another notable owner of lot 87 is Virginia “Jennie” Cannon, who is listed on the deed in 1881. She was a daughter of John B. McEwen, Franklin’s mayor during the Civil War years. Read more about her family and the grand house they lived in on Fair Street.
Cynthia witnessed the horrors of the Battle of Franklin firsthand with her sisters. Her sister wrote a letter about that day: “My father [John B. McEwen], realizing that we were in range of the guns from both armies, told us to run down into the cellar. We hastily threw a change of clothing into a bundle and obeyed at once. My mother [Cynthia Graham McEwen], who never knew what fear meant in her life, was a little reluctant to go and leave the upper part of the house to the tender mercies of soldiers, but she finally joined us in the basement.
“In the afternoon, December 1, some of us went to the battlefield to give water and wine to the wounded. All of us carried cups from which to refresh the thirsty. Horrors! What sights that met our girlish eyes! The dead and wounded lined the Columbia Pike for the distance of a mile.“
We will never understand the sadness young Jennie and her sisters experienced living through the Civil War. Their home, the Harris-McEwen House, was even used as a hospital during the war.
Unlike many Southerners, John McEwen prospered after the war. He was a real estate mogul including owning 23 acres where Harlinsdale Farm stands. McEwen operated Fernvale Springs Resort in Williamson County for several years. He even boldly turned down the Federal government’s efforts to save an important part of Franklin’s battlefield and create a battlefield park. McEwen thought a better idea was to subdivide the land into building lots and name the streets after the Battle of Franklin’s fallen Confederate generals. Thankfully, The Battle of Franklin Trust helped reclaim some of this land.
Another fun fact is Jennie’s husband’s grandfather was Newton Cannon, the governor of Tennessee from 1835 to 1839 pictured above.
In 1926, lot 87 changed hands from Jennie to her daughter, Cynthia Cannon Fleming, and son-in-law, Samuel Milton Fleming, Sr. The Flemings lived next door in the beautiful Queen Anne Victorian in what is now known as the Fleming-Hyatt House.
Cynthia was a beloved figure in town, as evidenced by her nicknames. Locals dubbed her the “Doyenne of Maple Street” (Maple Street is the former name of Third Avenue South) and the “Number One Lady Citizen” of Franklin. The Flemings had three children Mickie, Jenny and Sam, Jr.
Not only was she respected for her strong character and charitable heart, Cynthia had quite the pedigree. She was a descendant of the McEwens and Goffs who moved to Williamson County from Fort Nashborough in 1800. Located on 1st Avenue next to the Cumberland River, this fort was a forerunner to the settlement that would become the city of Nashville,
As mentioned before, Cynthia’s grandfather was John B. McEwen, who had been Franklin’s mayor during the Civil War, and her great-grandfather was former Tennessee governor Newton Cannon. Her uncle, Aaron Venable Brown, had served as the state’s governor as well. Cynthia was no stranger to politics and was one of the most beloved and respected ladies in town.
Not only that, her nephew, Henry Cannon, was married to Sarah Colley Cannon, whom most knew as Minnie Pearl. It was well known that Henry and Sarah would visit Aunt Cynthia when they came to Franklin. Read the backstory of Sarah Cannon’s grandparent’s home on West Main Street.
Sarah as Minnie Pearl would go on to have a 50-year career as a comedian on the Grand Ole Opry and spent over 20 years on the television show Hee Haw. To think she has some many connections in Franklin.
In 1947, Sarah married a local Franklin boy, Henry Cannon. Henry came from a prominent Franklin family and spent part of his childhood and young adult life at Wyatt Hall, one of the oldest homes off Franklin Road built around 1805 and across from Harlinsdale Farm. He attended Battle Ground Academy.
Henry was the great grandson of John B. McEwen. He had a twin sister, Alice, and a younger sister, Jennie. Henry and Sarah Cannon are even buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Franklin.
THE FLEMING SIDE OF THE FAMILY
Cythnia’s husband, Samuel Fleming, Sr., also came from pioneer stock and was one of the wealthiest men in Williamson County. Known as “The Millet King,” he was the owner of the S.M. Fleming Company, which dealt in grain.
The granary was located on South Margin Street in the building where J.J. Ashley’s now operates.
The Flemings had two daughters and one son: Jennie, Mickie, and Samuel Milton, Jr. After graduating from Battle Ground Academy and Vanderbilt University, Sam Jr. served in the U.S. Navy and rose to Lieutenant. He went on to become president of Third National Bank of Nashville, which later turned into SunTrust Bank. Sam, Jr. was a highly respected banker and philanthropist. He had many respected friends including presidents. He frequently played golf with Dwight Eisenhower.
Sam Fleming financed many publicly traded corporations as well as the country music industry. Notably, one of his most important legacies was helping rescue Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) when it was headed for financial disaster. Another highly important loan Sam ever made was in 1946, when the bank loaned a thousand dollars to three WSM engineers trying to start a recording studio. That studio was Castle Recording where Hank Williams recorded his first demos on December 11, 1946.
Hank went on to record almost exclusively at Castle for his entire career. He recorded “Lovesick Blues” at Castle and it became a #1 record for sixteen weeks and won Hank an invitation to the Grand Ole Opry. Paul Cohen and Owen Bradley recorded artists like Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, and Webb Pierce at Castle Recording. The studio produced almost half the songs on the country music charts between 1947 and 1955.
Nashville author and historian, Ridley Wills II, wrote a book about Sam M. Fleming, Jr. titled Yours to Count On (A Biography of Nashville Banker Extraordinaire Sam M. Fleming). Sam made the statement about growing up in Franklin, “I often say that one who was not privileged to live in such a wonderful place as Franklin missed a great deal in life. It was there where one’s character, ideals, and ambition were molded.”
A WEDDING GIFT TO BEAT ALL WEDDING GIFTS
On July 28, 1924, the Flemings’ eldest daughter, Jennie, tied the knot with Andrew Mizell, Jr. As a wedding gift to the couple, the Flemings built the stone bungalow owned by the Raveners that stands today on lot 87. The home was constructed around 1926 in the arts-and-craft style that was characteristic of that time.
The photo below shows a younger Jennie Mizell and the strong women in the Cannon-Fleming family. Starting from the left, you’ll also see Cynthia Cannon Fleming (Jennie’s mother), Mickie Fleming Farrar (Jennie’s sister), and Jennie McEwen Cannon (Jennie’s grandmother). Jennie is pictured on the far right holding a child.
MIZELL FAMILY HISTORY
Plenty of men would have been intimidated by marrying into such a prestigious family, but Andrew’s background wasn’t too shabby either. He was a direct descendant of John Donelson, one of the founders of Nashville. Together, he and James Robertson co-founded the frontier settlement of Fort Nashborough. Donelson and his wife Rachel had eleven children. Their daughter Rachel married Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States.
Andrew’s father, Andrew H. Mizell, Sr., was the senior member of Mizell, Murrey, & Co., a wholesale grocery firm in Nashville. He was also one of the best-known livestock raisers in Middle Tennessee and a director in the Fourth & First National Bank.
Andrew Mizell, Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and worked in the wholesale grocery business. He was also a U.S. district court clerk.
The Mizells eventually had two children: Andrew “Andy” Mizell, III, born in 1926 and Cynthia Mizell, 1929. The photo below shows the kids in costume during a 1937 Governor’s Tour. Their paternal grandparents’ Andrew and Lucy Merrill Mizell’s lived in the antebellum mansion, Ashlawn on Franklin Road in Brentwood.
Ashlawn was built in the 1830s by Richard and Mary Emeline Smith Christmas. It was built at the same time as Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. It has double parlors and trim like the Hermitage, but its magnificent circular stairway rises three stories where the Hermitage only rises two. It was part of a 640-acre Revolutionary War land grand given Mary’s parents of which they received 200-acres to build the home.
The fact that the home has survived all these years is a testament to its solid construction–the walls are 13 inches thick and made from bricks fired on the property. Andrew’s parents acquired Ashlawn in 1906, and he grew up there.
Below is another photo of the Mizell children. Here they are peering down from the circular stairwell with their mother, Jennie. The picture is poor quality, but it gives an idea of the grandiosity of the three-story staircase.
In former Williamson County historian Virginia Bowman’s book, Historic Williamson County, she says “Tradition says the builder sketched the design on the floor, then lying on his back, worked for a year fitting the spiraling steps into the wall.”
Andrew, Jennie, and their children eventually moved out of the stone bungalow in downtown Franklin and into Ashlawn, which remained in the Mizell family for more than 40 years.
THE GRAYS MOVE IN
In 1941, Cynthia Fleming sold the stone bungalow to a couple whose last name still glows in neon above Franklin’s Main Street–William Francis, Sr. and Mary Hall Phillips Gray. William, who went by “Frank,” was the owner of Gray’s Drug Company.
Frank had started out by working as a clerk and soda jerk for Franklin pharmacist John Moran. In 1913, Frank and his wife moved to Hillsboro (now called Leiper’s Fork) where he was the community’s pharmacist and postmaster for five years.
During WWI, Frank was rejected in the first drafts because his services as a druggist were needed on the homefront. He was called in on the last draft, but by that time, hostilities had ended, and he was never ordered out.
In 1918, Moran rehired him at his drug store in Franklin. When Moran retired in 1931, Frank and D.C. Kinnard bought him out and established Kinnard-Gray Drug Company. After Kinnard passed away in 1938, the business became Gray Drug Company.
In the 1950s, Frank installed the neon sign that has become a landmark in downtown Franklin. At the time of Frank’s death in 1967, he was Franklin’s oldest active businessman. He’d worked as a druggist for 62 years.
The former pharmacy is now home to Gray’s on Main, a popular Main Street restaurant that honors the history of the building. Read our backstory about Gray’s on Main here.
True Preservationists and Great Americans
We have so much respect for Bob and Lisa Ravener and how they have preserved the integrity of their historic home. They are shining examples of being great stewards of a historic property. Bob is a proud veteran and volunteers his time for several local organizations.
Bob is involved locally with the Downtown Franklin Rotary, Friends of Franklin Parks, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and Franklin’s Charge. Previously he was also a member of the Franklin Civil War Historical Commission and on the Board of Goodwill Industries International. There are so many good causes supported by our friends and neighbors, another special element of Franklin. We try to support the good causes around us.
With so much history here, Bob always introduces friends to that side of Franklin. Lisa shows guests our many lovely shops. They both enjoy introducing visitors to the local restaurants and live music. Beyond anything, Bob and Lisa like to walk the trails and beautiful parks like Harlinsdale Farm to take in all of Franklin’s charm.
When asked to describe Franklin in one word, Bob and Lisa said, “Friendly!” We totally agree, and that’s one of the many reasons we love this special town and why we continue to have so many people move to the historic gem we call home.
Check out Bob’s memoir, Up: The Difference Between Today and Tomorrow is YOU! Bob teaches how hope is not a strategy. He combines his business and real-life experiences to help readers create a blueprint for overcoming both personal and professional challenges.
Many thanks to Trenton Lee Photography for the beautiful photos once again. We continue to appreciate Rick Warwick for allowing us access to his collection of historic pictures of Franklin.
We hope you enjoyed this story as much as we did. Sharing historic Franklin’s best backstories with you!