Thursday, February 10, 2005

Garden Club asks city for little church
Staff Writer

Ladies with the Town and Country Garden Club descended upon the Holly Springs Board of Aldermen last week hoping to convince the city to lease the historic shotgun-style church beside city hall to the club. They said they want to take on the little church, built in 1837, as a preservation project.

“The building is falling in and we want to save it,” said Karen Schneller, club representative. “We think it’s worth saving.”

The club offered to raise the $20,000 to $30,000 it will take to restore the building in exchange for a 99-year lease from the city.

In exchange for the lease and a requested tax-exempt status on the building, the ladies said they would save the building for future generations. They said the building could be used for receptions, meetings and small weddings.

The 16 foot by 48 foot wood frame house was built as a Sunday school in 1837 - replacing a pole and mud cabin erected for the same purpose by residents, the late Robert H. Pattillo, a Presbyterian, and James Elder, a Methodist. The two were among 20 charter members and first officers of the Presbyterian Church organized by Rev. Daniel Gray in December 1836.

Planning for the church building came soon after the church was organized further under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Hurd during the early months of 1837, the same year that a financial panic in the banking industry that year that saw many prominent citizens in Holly Springs losing their fortunes with the collapse of the local McEwen, King and Company Bank.

Plans for the new church were muted to the more modest requirements creating a building that resembles a shotgun-style house of the period rather than a house of worship.

The little church was moved to its present site in 1860 to make room for the construction of the present Holly Springs Presbyterian Church.

A written history of the church reads that, “One architectural historian has declared it to be the oldest example of “shotgun” architecture in America outside New Orleans. But by any account it survives as one of the very oldest buildings in Holly Springs and North Mississippi.”

It is counted as among the 12 oldest surviving Mississippi church buildings - the oldest surviving church building in the state outside the Natchez district. It served as a house of worship until 1848 and then was converted to other uses.

The little church was moved to its present site so the new Presbyterian Church could be constructed on the north side of today’s city hall. The building has served as an office, a residence, office of the Production Credit Association, the office of The Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and the office of the city’s recreation department.

Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry told Schneller the city would have to think it over before deciding to lease the building. He asked the difference in the Town and Country Garden Club and the Holly Springs Garden Club.

“We’re the folks who couldn’t get in the other club,” Schneller said. “We want to keep up the little house, not the big house (Montrose).”

“We have had some issues to arise with Montrose,” said DeBerry. “I do not want to get into another situation.”

“We don’t want to put $20,000 to $30,000 in a building and lose it in another year or two,” she said.

“We want to make sure the tenants assist us as well,” the mayor said.

“It’s going to fall in,” Schneller replied. “We want to re-do the bathroom and fix up the kitchen.”

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