Grey Gables originated from a parcel of land bought by Morris Hatchel in 1839. The original two-story brick Greek Revival house was built by Hatchel around 1848. In 1849 it was bought by James Henry Nelson (d. 1865) and his wife Maria Nelson (1806-1881). Nelson was a merchant who had a store on the Holly Springs Square, where Miller’s Department store eventually stood. During the Civil War, the Nelson house was occupied and pillaged by Union soldiers. In May of 1865, after the defeat of the Confederacy, Confederate marauders attacked Holly Springs and murdered Mr. Nelson outside his store on the square. His ghost is still said to haunt the house.
In 1870 Mr. Nelson’s widow Maria sold the house to James J. House, who made his fortune as a Confederate blockade runner during the Civil War. House also ran a six-horse, 50 passenger bus from the Holly Springs square to the Depot. In 1875 House began a complete and extensive renovation of the house, converting it to a grand Italianate mansion and adding several rooms, turning the entrance of the house to face south (the main entrance originally faced west towards the square) and stuccoing the brick walls. These stuccoed walls were eventually painted grey and the house earned its name “Grey Gables.” House also installed the very first plumbing system with running water in town. There is a good possibility that famed Holly Springs architect Spires Boling oversaw the renovations.
In 1881 James House sold the home to William A. Roberts (1827-1888), who lived in the house with his wife Josephine Roberts (1840-1908), daughter Anna Roberts McGowan (1860-1928) and son-in-law William Irwin McGowan (1848-1916) who married Anna in 1880. The McGowan family lived in Grey Gables for several generations, until the house was sold by Edward McGowan in 1952 to the Holly Springs Garden Club, an organization which promoted the history of the town and held the annual Pilgrimage event.
In 1962 the Garden Club sold the house to Fred Swaney (1922-2001) and his wife Lois Swaney, who raised their family in the house. Between 1975 and 1982 it was owned by the Spencer family, who sold the house to Dr. Joseph A. Hale (d. 2007). Dr. Hale lived in the house for two decades, and filled the home with a wonderful collection of antiques. Before Dr. Hale’s death in 2007, he sold the house to the University of Tennessee, who re-sold the house to Scott Faragher in 2008.
Grey Gables is a two-story stuccoed-brick house, originally built in the Greek Revival style but transformed into an Italianate mansion in the 1870s. There are two gable-front sections joined by a central flanking-gable section. There is a lavishly decorated porch and heavy brackets along the cornice line. The windows have decorated cast iron lintels.