Holly Springs: Govan-Herr House (1856)

The Govan-Herr House was built in about 1856 by Charles Fraiser, whose father John Fraiser owned this entire lot and gave his name to the “Fraiser Subdivision”, the area of land in eastern Holly Springs bounded by Chesterman Street, Van Dorn Avenue, Salem Avenue, and Compress Street.  By the Civil War, the house was owned by Thomas Hebdon (1827-1912) and his wife Lucinda P. Hebdon (1833-1895).

By the 1870s the house was owned by George M. Govan (1840-1899), who served in the Confederate army and later served during the Spanish-American War.  In 1888 the house was sold to Albert Herr (1859-1934), a German immigrant to Holly Springs who was allegedly the eighth son of the King of Prussia.  Herr was a mayor of Holly Springs at one point, and was the long-time manager of the Holly Springs Stoneware and Fire Brick Company.

In the 1930s the house was inherited by Eva C. Knott, Herr’s daughter, who married Grover Knott (1886-1976).  The couple lived in the house for many decades.  Grover Knott owned a store just to the south of the Govan-Herr House.  In the late 1930s, the Daughters of the Confederacy, with the Knott’s blessings, opened the Albert Herr Confederate Museum in a log cabin, located behind the Govan-Herr House.  The Museum was used to display Civil War artifacts from Holly Springs and the surrounding area.  The Herr Confederate Museum lasted until the 1960s, when it was closed and the log cabin was destroyed.  Descendants of the Herr/Knott family owned the house until 2004, when it was bought by Chelius Carter, who owned the house from 2004-2011, when the home was sold to Jonathan Mrazek, the current owner.

The Govan-Herr House is a rather unique and early example of a vernacular or folk cottage in Holly Springs.  Vernacular cottages were built based on local need and available construction materials, and are rarely beholden to any one type of architectural style.  The house is a single-story flanking-gable brick home, with a later frame addition (built by Albert Herr) on the back and side of the house which has more of a Victorian influence.  There is a gable-front ell with tripartite bay window, a two-bay porch on the front facade and a three-bay porch on the east elevation.

The Govan-Herr House made our 2016 list of the Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Structures in Holly Springs, due to an absentee owner who has allowed a great deal of “deferred maintenance” to pile up.  The home has also been discussed by the town government for “clean up” (which can often mean destruction) due to its perceived derelict condition.

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