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Preserving History in the Heart of Murfreesboro

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Story by Lee Rennick | Photos by Erin Kosko
Twenty years ago, Ron and Charlene Taylor decided to preserve a piece of Murfreesboro history by restoring a Queen Anne home on Main Street. They were drawn to the house because there are so few Queen Annes in existence in the area, plus it was well built and structurally sound in spite of its long history. Most of all, the couple see downtown Murfreesboro as the living, beating heart of the community. 

“We feel that the downtown influences the future of Murfreesboro,” said Charlene, “which is why we love to share our story of being part of this caring and vibrant neighborhood.”

History of the Taylor Home

Known as the Wilkes-Coffee home by many who know old Murfreesboro, the Taylors call their home “Blessings” because the structure has survived a lot of potentially harmful events during it’s more than 120-year history. It was built between 1901 and 1903, according to research the couple did after purchasing the home. 

“It was not built overnight,” added Charlene. “Because it is so well built, it has survived a lot, including the tornado that hit downtown Murfreesboro in 1913 and caused horrible devastation. The structural engineer we hired to evaluate the home after we bought it told us that it was only one eighth of an inch off of its original foundation.”

That the house was not damaged during that 1913 tornado amazed the Taylors. Old newspaper accounts available online at describe the storm as “raging with savage intensity” and wrecking the town square with the exception of the south side.
“Every building on the north side of the Square was damaged,” states an old article from, “five of them were razed to the ground…These buildings were brick and concrete, and among the best in the town….”

Working with the historic society and drawing on work they had that had been done by Charlene’s cousin, the late historian Homer Pittard and his wife Mable, the Taylors discovered that they were only the fifth owners of the home. 

“The home has a history of being welcoming,” said Charlene. “Although there is not a lot known about it, we do know that some young men scholars from what was then Middle Tennessee Normal School lived in the home. Perhaps it was a rooming house, like a dorm, for the college at the time?”

What they do know is that the Queen Anne style of home was introduced in the United States at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition. It was the first of what would become known as a “World’s Fair” to take place in the United States. Thirty-seven countries participated, sharing art and design ideas, manufactured products and knowledge about mining, agriculture and more. The United Kingdom offered a building of Queen Anne style as part of their exhibit, and an Americanized version of the style took off in this country, especially in New York, beginning in the 1880s. 

According to,“…[P]opular in American from 1880 to 1910, [this style of architecture] evolved out of the Colonial Revival style; the two styles were fashionable at the same time. The Queen Anne style was imported by English architects who were inspired by the half-timbered walls and patterned masonry of Medieval and Jacobean style-buildings…The playful character of this style is also represented in the floor plan. In earlier American styles, like the Greek Revival style, the interior floor plans were very boxy and symmetrical. In the Queen Anne style, the box has now been pulled open and apart: rooms now flow from one another, in an asymmetrical pattern, often around the significant central family staircase. Oddly, the name of this style is historically inaccurate: while the name “Queen Anne” refers to the English queen of 1710, these buildings are actually based on [12th] century to [16th] century designs.”

Restoring the Home

Just as the original builders took their time building the original home, the Taylors also took their time restoring it. It took them three years, but their goal was to modernize the house, while still keeping everything to the once popular Victorian style and staying on their budget. 
Like all homes of its time, it originally had no indoor plumbing, and when they bought the house there was only one bathroom. 

“We took our cues from the Queen Anne style’s European origins,” explained Charlene, “including making the bathrooms small. The Europeans know a lot about restoration of old homes, as well as efficiencies in heating and cooling that we do not employ so much over here. We wanted to make this house our retirement home, so we also wanted to make it easy care with minimal maintenance cost.”

They had a wonderful crew who added lots of extra insulation. They got advice from their friend Larry Kirk, retired from Murfreesboro Electric Service and worked with Roscoe Brown Heating, Cooling and Plumbing to find the most efficient central heating and air systems. They also put in gas fireplaces and had the vents in their multiple fireplaces blocked to keep the home from losing warmth or cool up the chimneys. 

“We can heat pretty much the entire house from the two ventless log fireplaces that we use,” explained Charlene. “We have an old 5,000 square-foot home, but our heating bill during the worst cold months is only about $300 with our budget billing which is consistent every month.” 
Sticking to their European source, their architect, Terry Bates and others, helped them use many old-world “tricks” to keep the home running efficiently, effectively and beautifully.
“[Interior designer] Larry Castelli, who lives down the street, suggested that we line our drapes with wool,” added Charlene, “which offers added insulation when we close them on a cold winter day.” 

Castelli also helped them pick some of the colors they have used on the walls and to find wallpaper that is similar to that true to the period. 

“When we were tearing out the walls to put in the insulation,” notes Charlene, “we did find samples of paper from the time the home was built, which we also used to find appropriate wallpapers.”

While many of their walls are painted in lovely muted shades of sage, honey and clay, they do use wallpaper to dramatic effect in the entry, bathrooms and main bedroom. The paper in the main bedroom is especially stunning, as it provides the effect of the room being wrapped in swaths of elegantly draped satin fabric. 

More than three quarters of the furniture used in their current home came from their former ranch home on Coffee Avenue where they raised their family. However, most of the lighting fixtures had been stripped from the Main Street home and sold, so Charlene and their daughters went antique fixture hunting various places regionally to find ones appropriate looking for the style of the home. 

“One of my daughters and I went to New Orleans to look for light fixtures,” said Charlene, “but instead we came back with the fountain that is in the back yard.”

Sharing the Home with the Community

Middle Tennessee State University professor Debra Belcher has brought some of her design students to the Taylor home because of the beautiful restoration work that they did to ensure that even new pieces, like the vast, built-in pantry in the kitchen created by Joe Bailey, were “of the time.” Bailey also acted as their construction manager to help insure the consistence of design. 

When asked about the period of her furnishings by an interior design student, Charlene admitted that the furnishings were from many different periods. A round oak table in the kitchen is the first piece of furniture that Charlene and Ron bought as a young married couple, while a chair in the sitting room is an 18th century antique. 

Like a house of the Victorian age, this one is also decorated with an assortment of pieces collected over a lifetime, from two fair sized model boats to their grandchildren’s art blended with art by well know local artists and old master-style pieces to the ephemera of the natural world like feathers. Their decor is an eclectic brew of family heirlooms, found items and things collected from their many travels.

“The only requirements that I have for furniture is that it is comfortable and that it all works well together,” added Charlene. “I want people to be able to feel at home here. And, I want furniture that the dog can sit on.”

Downtown Offers a Sense of Old Time Community

The dog thing is important. Ron and Charlene are HUGE dog people. They have had several, and walking their dogs over the years in the downtown neighborhood has been the source of many new friendships.

“Miss Boo was our first,” explained Ron, “and we had Tucker. He was an English Bull Dog descended from the original Uga dog (University of Georgia’s mascot). And, then we had Murry. He was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It was very sad when he died from heart disease. And, then we had Gipper. He was a Golden Retriever. A big change from the small dogs we were used to, but Golden Retrievers may be the most perfect dogs.”

Gipper was beloved in the neighborhood, and when he got sick, many of their neighbors became concerned with his health. 

“That is one of the unique things about downtown,” said Charlene, “people know what’s going on. We look after each other.”

It was hard when Gipper died from an auto-immune disease during the height of the COVID pandemic, but now they have Wi-Fi. He is a bundle of energy, love and fur who keeps his humans amused and healthy walkers. 

Wi-Fi gets to spend time in the Taylor’s hide-away backyard with walking trails during the summer months. What they call their sanctuary was created with the help of now retired Collette Delk, who owned Designscape in Murfreesboro. 

“He helped us find native plants that have thrived,” said Charlene. “We would not have the dream back yard that we have without him!” 

From the back yard to the front porch lined with comfortable rocking chairs, there is something serene and welcoming about the home. Perhaps in modern vernacular the homes energy would be called a “chill vibe,” or using a word from the time of its construction, it is “bummel,” like a slow leisurely walk around the neighborhood that the couple might make with Wi-Fi. 

“Perhaps a better word can be adopted from the French, “retrouvailles.” According to, “it means “refinding” – but it’s more usually understood as the French equivalent of what we might call a reunion or homecoming. Recently the word came to be used more imaginatively to describe the utter happiness or joy sparked by reuniting or catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.”

During the renovations of their Queen Anne home, perhaps the Taylors reunited with the slower lifestyle of the past where neighbors chatted with each other on leisurely evening strolls and tapped back into the sense of community that the downtown has had in the past and that is returning. 

“I do believe that when you restore something with love, it restores you, too,” added Charlene.

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