Montrose was built in 1861 by Robert McGowan (1832-1894) and his new wife, Margaret Brooks (1828-1871).  Margaret was the daughter of Alfred Brooks (1802-1888), a wealthy landowner, and contrary to a popular local legend, Alfred Brooks did not build the house as a wedding present to Robert and Margaret, though Alfred did rescue the house from foreclosure twice and technically owned the home, which might explain the origin for the legend.  Like most other mansions on Salem Avenue, Montrose was constructed by famed local architect Spires Boling (1812-1880).

Margaret Brooks died during childbirth soon after the Civil War, and Robert McGowan sold the house in 1878 to Judge James T. Fant (1838-1895), a local lawyer and judge who lived in the house until his death.  In 1899, the home was purchased by Dr. Robert H. Peel (1832-1903).  Dr. Peel was a surgeon in the 19th Mississippi Regiment during the Civil War, and operated on both Confederate and Union soldiers at the battle of Manassas.  Dr. Peel’s original home, the county manor called Hickory Park, was destroyed during the Civil War.  Dr. Peel and his family lived at Montrose for many years, before they sold it to Sidney R. Crawford (1873-1944), a local merchant who owned Montrose until 1938, when Minnie Wooten Johnson, the widow of Jack Johnson, bought the house and carried out extensive renovations and restorations.

Upon Minnie’s death in 1962, she willed the completely restored and furnished Montrose to the City of Holly Springs.  Since that time, the Holly Springs Garden Club has maintained the property and grounds.  Every Spring, the Garden Club uses the home as its headquarters during Pilgrimage, and the mansion remains one of the more popular wedding and reception destinations in Marshall County.

Montrose is a two-story flanking-gable brick Greek Revival mansion, with a monumental tetrastyle portico, cast iron Corinthian columns, a lunette window in the pediment, cast-iron window lintels, and an entrance framed by sidelights and a transom.  Interior features of the house include a spiral stairway, marble mantel pieces, parquet floors and ornate ceiling medallions.  At one point, Montrose had an octagonal sewing room on the front east side (which can be seen in the above historic photograph), but this was removed in a subsequent renovation.

6 thoughts

  1. Interesting that you say Alfred Brooks did not build it. My family was always told he did build it for Margaret and Robert McGowan, who were the grandparents of my grandfather Robert McGowan Good.

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    1. It’s part of the lore of the house that Alfred Brooks built the house for his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift, but a quick look at the deeds show this isn’t the case. In fact, Brooks purchased the house after McGowan lost the home in foreclosure. Not quite as romantic, but Brooks was still a good father in law!

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      1. Unless of course he supplied the funds/built it but put the deed in their name to start with. 😉 Either way, he seemed to be a good father in law.

        Interesting side not about him, he is listed in the 1860 census as one of the largest slave owners in the county, but he himself is listed on the non-white portion of the census.

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