Heritage was built in 1872 by Doctor John H. Athey, a pharmacist who owned a pharmacy on the Holly Springs square for many years. Athey’s pharmacy was the only business that remained open during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878, due to the constant demand for medicine. Dr. Athey, his wife Caledonia and their children lived in the house for over sixty years, until the Athey family lost the house in foreclosure in 1939.
Between 1939 and 1958 the house was owned by Augustus H. Branch (1886-1946). In 1958 the home was bought by realtor Walter A. Utley (1927-2004) and his wife Vermelle Utley (1927-2015) who conducted extensive renovations to the property. Today Heritage is still in the hands of the Utley family, and is owned by the Utley Trust. Heritage appeared on the 2015 and 2016 Pilgrimage House Tour.
There is some controversy as to the date of construction of Heritage. Many local sources, including previous and current homeowners and the house’s historic sign in the front yard list the house as having been built in 1856, which would make it an antebellum structure. Other sources state that the house was built in 1870. The available evidence overwhelmingly supports a date of construction of around 1872:
- The style of architecture is Italianate, with French New Orleans influences. This style of architecture would have been quite rare in antebellum Holly Springs, where the vast majority of the houses in the area were built in the Greek Revival or Gothic Revival style. On the other hand, Italianate architecture was the dominant architecture style in the region during the post-war 1870s.
- Doctor Athey did not receive the deed to this lot until May 20th, 1870 (Marshall County Deed Book 30, Page 454).
- The Athey family were not living on Salem Avenue, where Heritage is located, in the 1870 Federal Census.
- John Mickle, one of the earliest historians in Holly Springs who was born in 1860 and lived on Salem Avenue briefly as a child, stated that the area between Wakefield (next door to Heritage) and Airliewood was empty fields during the 1860s (November 20, 1930 article in the Holly Springs South Reporter newspaper).
- Doctor Athey’s account books at his pharmacy on the square during the 1870s lists the purchase of building supplies for Heritage between 1871 and 1872.
Regardless of its date of construction, Heritage is an Italianate two-story flanking-gable frame house, with French New Orleans influences, with a flat roof, a three-bay porch supported by Tuscan columns, scrolled brackets along the cornice line, and a main entrance with sidelights and a transom. A large brick structure was added to the back of the house several decades after its initial construction.