The Randolph-McGuirk-Booker House, also known as “Alicia”, is a Greek Revival home, with later Italianate and Victorian additions, which hides a much older log cabin underneath which could be one of the oldest surviving homes in Holly Springs. The exact origins of the house remain unknown, as the earliest deeds to the property have been lost. However, according to local legend and tradition, the original dogtrot log cabin here was built in about 1835 by Jack Randolph, the brother of town founder William S. Randolph. The Randolphs first moved to Holly Springs in early 1835, making it likely that the log cabin could date back to the earliest days of white settlement in Holly Springs. In addition, the immediate neighborhood contains several other examples of the early dogtrot log cabin (including Cuffawa (1838), Sims-Jones House (Box Hill) (c.1840), Blake-Mullins-Callicutt House (The Terrace) (1842) and the Governor Matthews House), making it likely this area that would become Chulahoma Avenue was an early residential development in Holly Springs.

In 1840, Jack Randolph sold his log cabin to the Reverend Dr. Daniel Baker (1791-1857), a famous and influential Presbyterian pastor, evangelical and educator in the early and mid 19th century. Arriving in Holly Spring in 1840, Daniel Baker knew his time in Holly Springs would be limited, as he had his eyes on the western frontier of Texas. While living in Holly Springs, Baker greatly increased the size and influence of the Presbyterian Church, and his efforts led to the construction of the second Presbyterian Church in Holly Springs, now known as the Miller’s Department Store (1848). Baker was also instrumental in the founding of the preeminent boy’s school in town- Chalmers Institute (1837). While living in Holly Springs for about eight years, Reverend Baker lived in this log cabin. Baker seemed to enjoy life in the cabin, as years later he wrote “I took possession of my log-cabin with devout feelings of gratitude and joy. I had a home, at last, and humble as it was, it was to me like a little palace.” (The Life and Labors of the Rev. Daniel Baker, 1858, as quoted in Reverend Milton Winter’s Amid Some Excellent Company (2003) )

The Reverend Dr. Daniel Baker

After Reverend Baker’s departure to Texas, the Presbyterian Church continued to own the house, and it was used as the Presbyterian Manse. Baker successor, Reverend C. S. Dod, also lived in the house for a time. In 1854, the house was sold to John McGuirk (1827-1871). McGuirk was a druggist before the Civil War, and was a Colonel in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Like many other owners of the now-outdated log cabins, McGuirk initiated a remodeling project at the house, clapboarding the original cabin and adding Greek Revival elements to the home. The McGuirks were an interesting “divided religion” family, with John McGuirk a fervant Roman Catholic and his wife Louisa McGuirk (1834-1872) a faithful Episcopalian. Half of the McGuirk children were raised in the Catholic church, while the other half were raised as Episcopalians. Contemporaries described the family as very happy, dispute the religious differences.

The McGuirk family was devastated by the early deaths of John in 1871 and Louisa in 1872. The McGuirk House was rented out to various other families for the next several years, including the Mattison and Smith families. Another tragedy occurred in the early 20th century, when Robert Walter McGuirk Jr. (1892-1907), John and Louisa’s grandson, died tragically at age 15 in a Scarlet Fever outbreak in Memphis, Tennessee. Robert’s devastated father had the last letter he received from his son inscribed into his tombstone at Hill Crest Cemetery, and the tombstone remains a popular grave at the cemetery today.

Grave of Robert McGuirk Jr. (Hill Crest Cemetery)

In 1896, the house was sold to John B. Howard (1843-1910), a former Confederate soldier, Marshall County Sheriff and Holly Springs Mayor. Howard lived in the house until the turn of the century, when Oscar Johnson, the millionaire owner of nearby Walter Place (1859), purchased the house (and all the surrounding homes) and initiated a massive restoration and renovation project to accompany his “Johnson Park” master plan. Noted architect Theodore Link conducted an extensive renovation on the house, greatly altering the exterior and interior of the home. Much of the house’s present appearance dates from this renovation. Architectural historian Chelius Carter, after examining the house in 2005, described the Link alterations as surrounding and hiding the original dogtrot log cabin, which he described as an asymmetrical two-room structure, with what was once a ladder-stair leading into an upstairs loft (Correspondence between Dr. Hubert McAlexander and Chelius Carter, 2005).

In 1919, William A. Anderson (1849-1926) and his wife Helen Craft Anderson (1847-1931) purchased the house from the Johnson family, though they had been renting the house already for several years. In 1934, the house was purchased by William T. Booker (1872-1950), the founder of Booker’s Hardware on the Holly Springs Square. Eventually, the house was inherited by May Alice Booker (1915-2006), the longtime librarian at the Marshall County Library and an amateur historian and genealogist. May Alice Booker gave the house its current name of “Alicia”, named either after May Alice herself or her sister, Felicia (depending on the local source). Since 2005, the house has been owned by John and Diane Schule.

Alicia, c. 1979 (Jack Baum Collection)

The Randolph-McGuirk-Booker House is a one-and-a-half story flanking-gable frame Greek Revival house with a gable-front ell. A five bay front gallery is supported by Tuscan piers. The gable-front ell is unique in that it has a bracketed pediment and a two-bay terrace with balustrade. The original c. 1835 log cabin can still be seen inside the house, surrounded by the c. 1855 Greek Revival additions, a c. 1890 Italianate addition and the c. 1900 Theodore Link additions to the house.

11 thoughts

  1. Hello-I just wanted to say thank you for writing the blog and the work that goes into the history and background- my family is from Pontotoc and Oxford and my graduate work was in architectural history and I love learning more about the area! I’m thankful for your time & for sharing. Please stay safe and well!

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      1. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you plan some Pontotoc posts – I am happy to try to help connect you if I can – several old houses were owned by my family in the 20th century, and I’m happy to reach out to some friends there if they can assist.

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  2. Mary Alice was known as Mae Alice to everyone. Not sure if spelling was May or Mae, or how long she was addressed that way. My generation loved her. She chaperoned the Red Barn on north Craft which was sponsored by the Pilot Club for teens in the early 1960’s to hang out and dance on Saturday nights. She would load many of us into her car and take us home after closing. Great fun there!

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    1. Her name was literally May Alice; she was named for her mother May Booker. She and her dear, dear sister Felicia were the only children of Sam and May Booker, but she grew up in this house (from her early teens) with the whole Booker clan. Her 3 bachelor uncles (the oldest one owned the house, but he gave the 2 big front bedrooms to Sam and May, and May Alice and Felicia. He wanted the smaller, quieter room off the kitchen.) The two younger uncles lived in the upstairs room. May Alice was the last survivor of the family, and she inheritered it. After poor health forced her to sell it, she didn’t live many months. I think having to leave her home hastened her death. She loved this house so much.
      Did she dance with you kids, Betty Brown? She was quite the dancer!

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      1. Thank you for this information Diane! I did know that her uncle actually owned the house, but wasn’t sure of the arrangement that allowed the entire family to live there.

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  3. We are undertaking a few outsIde projects during the quarantine; Philip got some shots of the rebuilt porch and new handicapped ramp I had put in on one side. Paint and handrails for the ramp haven’t come yet, but it will look better, I promise!

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  4. I posted a couple of comments about our house earlier today, but I must have sent them into the ether somehow. I have lots more information about the house, but the most important thing is, I like Booker House or Booker Place (although “Place” sounds a little bigger and more pretentious than this cottage actually is. So, Booker House would be nice, if it wouldn’t offend any senior members of the Garden Club or Pilgrimage Historians.

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    1. No, all the comments are there, I just have to manually “approve” each comment, for some reason. They should all be visible now! And her name was definitely “May Alice”- “Mary Alice” was a typo on my part, but I’ve corrected it now.

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      1. Oh, thanks, Phillip, I didn’t know exactly how the posting worked. Believe me, I am perfectly capable of (liable to) send things off to Mars.

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