Hamilton Place was one of the first mansions built in Holly Springs. This home was originally built in the Federal style in 1840 by William F. Mason (1800-1876), an early settler in Holly Springs. Mason built this home on what was then the outskirts of the town, though it had a direct view of the Holly Springs square and courthouse down the Memphis street. Mason allegedly stated “my front door is in town, my back door is in the woods.”
In 1853 William Mason built another mansion just down the street from this house, now called The Magnolias, and subsequently sold this house, for $10,000, to Ransom H. Byrne, a wealthy planter who soon doubled the size of this home and added a great two-story collonaded portico, converting the original Federal home into a Greek Revival mansion (see picture above). Byrne is also known as the man who deeded to the City of Holly Springs, in 1845, the area which would become Hillcrest Cemetery.
In 1859, Ransom Byrne sold the house to a New Orleans firm, called Rugby, Blair and Company, for $15,000. Though the firm continued to own the house, it was rented to William Mason’s son, Carrington Mason (1835-1915) , and his wife Maria, who lived in the house during the Civil War.
There is a well-known story associated with Hamilton Place which occurred here during the Civil War, and known as the moment when “music saved Holly Springs”. After Confederate General Earl Van Dorn’s raid against Union-occupied Holly Springs in December 1863, Union soldiers were sent to re-gain control over the town and possibly even destroy it in retaliation for the destruction of Union property. When the Union soldiers, led by General Benjamin Grierson, arrived at Hamilton Place, they were welcomed by Maria Mason who began playing for the soldiers on her Steinway piano, allegedly persuading the General and his soldiers (through her hospitality and musical skill) to spare the town.
After the end of the Civil War, Carrington Mason and his family moved to Memphis, and the house was involved in some litigation between the members of the Rugby, Blair and Company firm who owned the house. In 1868, the Catholic Sisters of Nazareth Convent, from Kentucky, arrived in Holly Springs and opened a Catholic girls school in the house, called Bethlehem Academy. A year later, the Academy outgrew the house and moved to the Pointer House.
In 1871 the house was bought by Judge Orlando Davis (1813-1898). Judge Davis and his family lived here until 1902, when the house and surrounding land was sold to Dr. Sam D. Hamilton (1851-1906), whose family lived here for many years and gave the house its name. Between 1920 and 1976 the house was owned by Dr. Hamilton’s daughter Lillie Hamilton Arrington (1886-1975) and her husband James Arrington. Lillie Arrington sold much of the land to the south of this house to the City of Holly Springs, which created the Arrington Subdivision from the land.
In 1920, Hamilton Place was struck by lightning twice during the same thunderstorm, and the house caught on fire. The second story was completely destroyed, and the Arringtons rebuilt the house as a one-story Craftsman Bungalow, a popular architectural style at the time (see picture above). The first floor remained largely the same, with the addition of a large front gable with typical Craftsman styling.
In 1976, the heirs of Lillie Hamilton Arrington sold the house to Thomas Jackson Stubbs and his wife Linda Stubbs. The Stubbs initiated the house’s fourth major architectural alteration by removing much of the earlier Craftsman styling and restoring the house to a more “period” style, with front dormers and a large front gallery porch.
In 1994 the house was purchased by Bobby and Kathy Clanton, who lived here until 2013. The Holt family has lived in Hamilton Place since 2013.
Hamilton Place has elements from the Federal, Greek Revival, and Craftsman styles. In its current form, Hamilton Place is a one-and-a-half-story brick house, with a hip-roof with three front dormers. A five-bay gallery porch is supported by Tuscan colonettes and a balustrade. The main entrance, with its transom and sidelights, dates from the original Federal and Greek Revival houses.
Thanks to Bobby Mitchell and Hubert McAlexander for providing much of the preceding history, and for clarifying some of this house’s long and interesting history.