Murfreesboro gains another historic home

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, May 4, 2010

MURFREESBORO — It’s a win-win situation.

Murfreesboro has gained one more designated historic home and the homeowner can now benefit from a tax exemption.

On Tuesday, the Murfreesboro Town Council voted to designate a private home on North Fourth Street as a historic property.

The council’s decision allows the owner, Patricia Helwick, to receive a “historic exemption,” which defers a portion of the real property taxes. The home, known as the Overseer’s House, originally sat on a family farm on Boone’s Bridge Road in Northampton County. The home was acquired and moved by the Murfreesboro Historical Association in August of 1987 in order to save it from eminent ruin.

The house is likely to have been built in the 1830’s to 1840’s, and the structure was perhaps the home of a planter or a merchant. It is thought as the farm changed hands, the landowner hired an individual to live there and oversee the farm.

The home features Greek Revival details on the exterior and Federal style on the interior, both have been salvaged and restored. Three mantles, doors, window trims, wainscoting, heart pine flooring, baseboards and the built-in hutch all have their original finish with an aged patina.

The decision from the council comes after a request to historically designate the property which was contested by the State Historic Preservation Office. Eastern Office Regional Supervisor Scott Power, whose comments are only advisory to the decision, stated in a letter to the town that the fact that the structure been moved from neighboring Northampton “seriously compromised its significance.”

“The relocation of a historic building to another county results in the loss of the building’s association and relationships to the county in which it was constructed, a major aspect of its significance,” he wrote.

Power also noted that moving a plantation house into a town “inappropriately alters its setting.”

During a public hearing, members of the Murfreesboro Historic Properties Commission spoke in support of the request for historic designation.

“It is my opinion that the home is located in the designated area of the historic district,” said Joanne Jones. “The house was put there by somebody on approval by somebody else.”

Jones said she did not know who approved the home to be placed at its current site, but that the house was “wonderful” and that it would be an advantage to the historic district to have the home designated.

“Ms. Helwick has to abide by rules and I don’t have a problem with her (home) being designated for her taxes,” she said.

Frances Van Brackle agreed with the designation and spoke about how Helwick has restored the home. She also noted historic tax exemption can encourage restoration of other historic homes.

“I think the very purpose of this tax deferral is to encourage restoration because restoration costs are exorbitant, they’re way beyond new construction, and unfortunately it’s not a profitable endeavor,” she said. “This might provide the incentive for others to follow too.”

John Sullins read to the council the Division of Archives of the Historic State Preservation Office’s definition of what local designation can apply to “individual buildings, sites, areas or objects that are studied by the commission and are judged to have historical, architectural, archeological or cultural value.”

“I know there is some concern because the house was moved from out of the county…it still has architectural and cultural value,” he said.

Alice Eley Jones also agreed with the designation.

“Although it was moved into the historic district, Murfreesboro has a wonderful reputation of restoring and maintaining architectural buildings that are important to a period, an era, geographical location,” she said. “And that structure is just so pristine and just fits what the Historical Association and what preservationists are determined to continue doing.”

Councilwoman Sarah Wallace made a motion to approve the request for Helwick’s home to receive historic designation as well as to amend the town’s ordinance regarding designation historic properties; it was seconded by Lloyd Hill. The motion passed without objection.

“We appreciate all the work you’ve done; it does enhance Murfreesboro,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Molly Eubank.