Alma McLemore said the progress being made on the restoration of the historic Merrill-Williams House on Natchez Street in Franklin is like a march to the Super Bowl.

“And when this house is ready, we’re going to throw a Super Bowl house party,” McLemore, president of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, said Friday during a celebration at the home to acknowledge the closing of the purchase from its owners, Cassandra and Wilbert Taylor. 

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Alma McLemore with Emily Magid

It came just six months after the nonprofit entered into an option to purchase the historic home at 264 Natchez St., with more than $1.2 million being raised. Donations came from a variety of individuals, businesses and organizations, notably a $1 million contribution from community advocate and philanthropist Emily Magid and a $100,000 donation from longtime Franklin residents Calvin and Marilyn LeHew.

Plans are to restore the home as a Center for Historic Preservation and Study of African-American History, as well as MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation. The AAHS has partnered with the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and other community entities to restore the home located at the corner of Natchez Street and 11th Avenue South.

This setting will provide a permanent office for the AAHS and an opportunity to interpret the many phases of the Natchez Street historic district. It will also create a place for discovering the Merrill and Williams family stories, as well as providing a repository for information regarding the development of the Natchez Street community as a prominent Black neighborhood.

Attending Friday’s ceremony, which included lunch from MoeBetter Barbecue Fish and Things, were board members from the AAHS and the Heritage Foundation, city and county officials, community leaders and others.

“We all have an opportunity to participate in history of our city and in our county,” Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson told the crowd. “Our country is in a very volatile state. We are constantly trying to find ourselves, but [it helps] with programs like this and individuals that can step up and demonstrate a love for community. … 

“It’s gratifying to be the mayor of Williamson County with folks like you.”

Also speaking were Cassandra Taylor, who had grown up in the home; Franklin Mayor Ken Moore; Magid and the LeHews; and Carroll Van West, Tennessee state historian and director of the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation.

While Friday’s event was certainly momentous and a reason to celebrate, McLemore said it’s only part of the progress.

“This is a developing story,” she said in her conclusion. “There is no grass growing under our feet. As we finish this, we’re going on to the next phase. This is going to be the house that everyone can be proud of.”

Click here for more on the history of the Merrill-Williams home.