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The Manor at Twin Oaks

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By Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

The Manor at Twin Oaks, a post-Civil War Victorian bed and breakfast located off John Bragg Highway, was originally built in 1886 by Colonel William Thomas Henderson for his wife as a wedding gift. Doyle Boyd moved it and rebuilt it for the love of his life, wife Cindy. You see, it didn’t start out as a bed and breakfast. It began as a family home.

While the house had been known by locals as the Henderson-Elrod house for many years, the Boyd’s part of the story began in 1982. Doyle and Cindy Boyd were stationed in St. Louis, Missouri as the end of their army career fast approached. They were ready to come home to Tennessee when they discovered that a house was available on East Main Street in Murfreesboro. All they had to do was move it!

Willis Edward “Ed” Delbridge, Jr., Henry Huddleston, Sr., and Jack Weatherford had bought the property that the house stood upon in order to develop it. They didn’t want to tear the house down because it had a rich history. It had been built by Civil War veterans. During the 1920’s, the home was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Elrod, owners of Cecil Elrod’s French Shoppe on the Square. As the family was involved in the world of professional tennis, it is said that Bobby Riggs was a frequent guest. There are also stories of Mrs. Douglas MacArthur waving to the General from the front veranda.

When they saw the house for the first time it was all boarded up. Jack Weatherford let them in with an old-fashioned skeleton key. When the sunlight bounded through the door illuminating the front staircase, Cindy Boyd knew it was home.

“I gasped and uttered the word ‘Tara’,” said Cindy. Doyle replied, “Then we have to buy it.”
Now all they had to do was figure out how to move it onto 140 acres of land they owned on the way to Woodbury, going down the old Woodbury Highway.

“I panicked,” said Cindy Boyd. “He didn’t.”

Well not really, she admits, but the process of moving the house from First and Main Streets out to their farm land seemed daunting.

“We interviewed several house movers,” said Doyle. “Several were willing to try, but they didn’t know how. Then I met Richard LaRue. We decided to have lunch at Shoney’s on Broad Street. On a napkin, we drew the plan for the move. We decided to cut it into seven pieces. He said he’d move it, but I’d have to cut the house into pieces.”

They hired a crew to remove the chimneys, install the lift mechanisms, and put in the reinforcing steel beams. Then they hired a stone mason to rebuild the original foundation at the new location. Later they discovered from the son (then well into his nineties) of the original builder that they moved it 125 years to the day that the family originally moved into the house. He had been born in the house, and even had a scar-worthy mishap sliding down the banister on the stairs.

“For the first cut,” said Cindy, “I was on the sidewalk with our three children (their daughters Kim, Mandy, and Angie). Two men in suits came to watch the process. I heard one old man say, ‘He’ll never get it back together again’.”

Doyle made the first cut himself. They moved the house in seven sections. The second floor was cut into four sections, then the ground floor was moved in two. The garage and roof were moved last.

It was not a one day thing. The pieces were moved on weekends. Doyle came down from St. Louis to supervise over a number of months. Cindy relayed stories of how the move even caused severe traffic delays – including one of her father’s clients.

“We set the first two pieces on the foundation,” explained Doyle, “then the rubber met the road. We hired a crane to raise the top pieces. When we saw the pieces were going to fit, and the house was going to look like it did when it was built, we knew that there must have been a guiding hand.” The only difference from the original Henderson home was the removal of a large portion of the second story porches done by the Elrods to change the style from Queen Anne to more of a Greek Revival architecture. And the Boyds decided to not restore the chimneys.

In the end, it took two years to restore. Initially, they moved into another house on their property, but it was out in the woods and hard to get to. Eventually, Cindy put her foot down and said it had to be made livable.

“The first winter was bleak,” said Doyle, “because it wasn’t fully insulated.”

“Five of us lived in two rooms,” added Cindy.

After moving 23 times with the military, they had never had a place of their own. In spite of the hardship, they were all involved in rebuilding the house. While the house was in good shape after they moved it, a tarp over the roof that blew away in a storm meant that all of the floors and walls had to be replaced. As did the original wood windows. It was the roll of their daughters to pull up the nails in the old flooring. At the time the girls were 13, nine, and six. They were paid a penny a nail.

“We all love the house,” said Cindy. “The girls grew up here. Got married here. And now the grandchildren come and play here. When our daughters moved out of town, and we retired, all of a sudden a house that was always busy felt empty.”

They decided to turn it into a bed and breakfast.

“We have had some unique and interesting guests,” said Cindy. “We had a guest who was a producer of documentaries for the History Channel and National Geographic. His family was originally from Kittrell, and his great-great grandfather was known as the “King of Jazz”. He came back to do a documentary about his grandfather, and his whole crew stayed with us.”

Just as the documentary tells a story, so does the house itself. It was a labor of love that’s furnishings and décor mostly come from Doyle and Cindy’s families. In the front hall is a red velvet couch and lamp in the parlor that belonged to Cindy’s grandmother. Her grandmother had worked as a bookkeeper for a business in downtown Nashville called Phillip-Burtoff that dealt in fine china. The business was near Printer’s Alley, and in 1922 a gourmet dinner club located there, called The Brass Rail Stable and Lounge, was being re-decorated. Her grandmother bought the two pieces at auction from The Brass Rail. The club later became a notorious brothel.

Downstairs there is a themed sitting room that is dedicated to Doyle’s collection of Western items. The cornerstone of the room is a wooden Indian from 1820 that their daughter Kim bought for him. “Men love [the room],” said Cindy, “perfect strangers will sit in here and just start talking.” The Sundown guest room upstairs houses more of the Western collection and a sink he made from her grandmother’s washstand.

The Eagle’s Nest guest room has a World War II theme. Hanging on the wall in a framed collage are news clippings, letters, photos, and memories of her father, who was an Omaha Beach survivor. All of the art is from Europe. On the desk sits a manual German typewriter.

"The first people to stay in the room were a man whose father became a prisoner of war during the Battle of the Bulge and his wife,” said Cindy. “His wife was afraid that they would have to change rooms, but he loved it.” A photo in the collage had made the man think of his parent’s reunion after the war, which made him smile.

Southern Nights is the theme of another guest room. It is built around her mother’s gloves and a dog-eared copy of Gone with the Wind. It was this copy of Gone with the Wind that inspired their vision for the house from the beginning.

In the corner of the hall by the Southern Nights room sits a Victorian chair and footstool with needle-point cushions that was made by her grandmother and her three sisters for their mother in the late 1900s.

In the Manhattan Room, vintage hats that once belonged to Cindy’s grandmother add a touch of New York fashion. The desk and chair are also heirlooms from her grandmother. The Seaside room sports antique white wicker from the family, and an inherited bed.

Not contented with one venue, a few years ago the Boyds opened The Barn at Stonegate Farm. It is a wedding and event venue with a guesthouse close by. Like the Manor, the guest house and the barn are filled with furnishings passed down through generations of the family, intermixed with other carefully curated pieces to produce a rustic and elegant Country French feeling. The Boyds once again did most of the work themselves, including remodeling the house and barn. The barn’s original structure is over 100 years old and has hand hewed timbers.

The pool room in the guesthouse serves as the dressing room for the groom and his party. The bride and her party have several bedrooms to use to prepare for the wedding, including one filled with sunflowers. The entire home offers more than 4,000 square feet, with six bedrooms, available for friends and family of the bridal party. It also includes a full kitchen, dining room, and three media rooms.

In the kitchen hangs part of Doyle’s collection of ladles from all over the world. Blue and red enamel plates in the hutch are fun, fanciful, and pieces of family history. Mismatched chairs, which remind one of those used in turn of the century soda fountains, encircle a classic farm table. The TV in the second floor sitting room rests on a table the Boyds created from an old tractor hood and a piece of glass they bought at an estate sale.

All of the facilities are surrounded by lush woods with hiking trails where deer and wild turkeys casually saunter by. The Barn at Stone Gate Farm offers rustic elegance with crystal chandeliers hanging above space for 200 guests and plenty of room to dance until dawn surrounded by rough-hewn wood walls. The Manor is a place to soak up the history of a simpler time, relax with new friends in one of the parlors or back patio, and enjoy a gourmet breakfast in a sunny room filled with warm and inviting furnishings from another age. Once you arrive, these are not just places to stay, but you are made to feel at home, and as if you are part of the family.

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