Walter Place was built in 1859 by Colonel Harvey Washington Walter (1819-1878), who came to Holly Springs in 1838 and became a well-known attorney. Walter was active in the politics of the time, and was instrumental in the creation of the Mississippi Central Railroad, and served as the first President of the Railroad. Walter built his amazing and unusual house as a fusion of the Greek Revival and Gothic Revival styles. The house was constructed by local architect Spires Boling.
Even though Walter opposed secession, he nevertheless fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, obtaining the rank of Colonel. During the Union occupation of Holly Springs in 1862-1863, General (and future President) Ulysses S. Grant’s wife Julia lived in Walter Place, with Walter’s blessings. After the end of the Civil War, Walter and his family returned home and reoccupied their mansion.
During the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878, Harvey Walter and three of his sons remained in Holly Springs and courageously tended to the sick and dying, even opening up Walter Place as a relief center. Sadly, Walter and his three sons contracted Yellow Fever and died during the epidemic. Walter’s widow remained in the house until 1889, when she sold the home to her daughter, Irene Walter (1864-1954), who married Oscar Johnson (1864-1916), one of the founders of the International Shoe Company. In 1903, Oscar Johnson hired famed German-born architect Theodore Link to renovate and restore Walter Place and several surrounding homes Johnson owned. At the same time, Johnson retained landscape artist Max Kiern to create an expansive park and gardens behind the main house.
Oscar Johnson died in 1916, leaving his park unfinished. In 1919 his widow, Irene Walter Johnson, sold the house and park to A. M. Greene, a local trendsetter who established the first auto dealership in Holly Springs. The Greenes owned the house until 1936, when the previous owner Irene Walter Johnson bought back the house at auction for $4,000. The Johnson family continued to own the house for another 50 years, until they sold it in 1983 to Mike and Jorja Lynn, who conducted extensive renovations on the house and finished the original gardens and park Oscar Johnson had envisioned 100 years earlier. In 2012 Mike Lynn passed away, and as of 2017 Walter Place and the surrounding gardens and park are for sell. In 2019, Terry Cook purchased Walter Place and began an extensive renovation of the house and grounds. In 2020, Walter Place was chosen as a finalist for the 2020 Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Heritage Awards.
Walter Place was the last great Mississippi mansion built before the coming of the Civil War. Nothing like this home would ever be built again in Mississippi. It blends the Greek Revival and Gothic Revival styles together to form one of the most unique homes in the South. It is a two-story flanking-gable brick house, with a pair of crenelated octagonal towers with decorated tympanums. A monumental tetrastyle portico is supported by Corinthian cast-iron columns, and all the windows are topped with decorative cast-iron lintels.
Walter Place was listed on our 2016 List of the Most Endangered Historic Properties in Holly Springs, due to an absentee owner and recent neglect of the exterior of the home. With a mansion as large as Walter Place, temporary neglect of needed repairs can quickly turn into a serious case of demolition by neglect. Thankfully, in 2019 the mansion was purchased by Terry Cook, who undertook an extensive restoration of the house. Cook’s efforts were rewarded with a well-earned nomination in the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 2020 Heritage Awards.