McLemore House December 21

Renovation and repairs to the McLemore House Museum in the Hard Bargain neighborhood have been completed, and the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County will open the historic home to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Work began on the museum in early April this year, and Saturday’s visitors can tour and see firsthand the improvements that have been made. Reenactors will give the tours and tell the story, giving guests the opportunity to learn about its history and the man who built the original home in 1880. 

Formerly enslaved Harvey McLemore fulfilled his dream of homeownership for his family after he became a free man. Despite the challenges that Harvey would have faced during that time period, he persevered and built an enduring home that was occupied by his descendants for 117 years. 

Visitors can also hear from Mag Matthews, a descendant of Harvey, who had her beauty shop business in the front foyer of the home. Saturday’s event is just for one day, as regular hours for the museum will resume in the spring. 

The home was first renovated and opened as a museum in 2002. Before then, in the preservation arena, African American places and spaces like Harvey’s home were primarily considered insignificant to history. Thanks to a group of concerned citizens, both black and white, with support from the community, the McLemore House was preserved and Harvey’s story, one that truly has its place in American history, continues to be told. 

The museum has welcomed many visitors over the years, and almost 20 years after the first renovation, many repairs were needed to restore the home back to its original splendor and prominence in order to ensure preservation for present and future generations. The Tennessee Historic Commission provided for a $50,000 grant, and major donations from Ford Classic Homes, Chuck & Jo Ellen McDowell, Barlow Builders and others in the community helped in funding and working on this project. 

McLemore House old

McLemore House before 2002 renovation

“That work has now been completed,” AAHS President Alma McLemore said in a press release, “and the African American Heritage Society is ready to resume sharing important truths of Harvey, a great family man with a compelling story of life after slavery and his home, which is the only remaining residential home in Franklin built by a formerly enslaved person. 

“Harvey’s home and others all across America reflect the true diversity of America and the continued need to tell the true story of our nation and its rich history and the roles African Americans and other cultures played in that history." 

Museum cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students and children 12 and under. Light refreshments will be available to guests. For tickets and more information about the African American Heritage Society and to donate to the museum, visit www.aahswc.org.