African American Heritage Society purchases Merrill-Williams House

The historic Merrill-Williams House at the intersection of Natchez and Fowlkes streets is officially owned by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County.

The organization held a closing celebration on November 12, closing a chapter of fundraising and advocacy on the role of the home as an integral part of the history of the Natchez Street community.

Along with preservation, the historic house is on its way to becoming a neighborhood heritage center that tells the story of the surrounding Natchez area as well as the stories of the Merrill and Williams families.

After the Civil War, Moses Merrill, who was once a slave, bought the property where he later built a house.

The Williams family later turned the house into a cultural center for the Natchez community during the segregation era, when they held art exhibitions and musical performances.

“The potential of the Merrill-Williams House to tell stories of trial, triumph and transformation is unparalleled,” AAHS President Alma McLemore said in a press release. “Its preservation will allow the public to better understand black history, while serving as a lasting sign of commitment to the recognition and protection of the fuller history of this remarkable city. “

Alma McLemore, President of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, celebrates the end of fundraising for the purchase of the Merrill-Williams House in Franklin, Tennessee on August 24, 2021. McLemore led efforts to preserve the historic property at 264 Natchez St.

Renovations, maintenance, staffing and conservation of the exhibits will be done in collaboration between the AAHS and the Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation.

The house will also have space for a permanent office for the AAHS and an ‘interpretation’ of the various stages in the history of the Natchez Street community, including its development into a prominent black community and its ability to endure and to overcome segregation, discrimination and racist violence. .

Fundraising will continue to support the operation of the heritage center.

The original plan to raise at least $ 610,000 in one year to save the house from sale and demolition by May 1, 2022, was halted when local philanthropist Emily Magid donated $ 1 million. to the cause in August.

Calvin and Marilyn LeHew donated $ 100,000, and Maurice Pope and Fred Curll, two food truck owners who hosted a barbecue on Saturday and donated all proceeds, raised $ 13,000. In total, $ 1.2 million was raised.

Anika Exum is a reporter covering Williamson County for the Tennessean. Contact her at [email protected], 615-347-7313 or on Twitter @aniexum.

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