Separating Fact from Fiction: Hank Williams and Beechwood Hall

Story Summary:

– Beechwood Hall in Williamson Country, Tennessee is a historical landmark designated on the National Register of Historical Places, and should be preserved.

– Though both Hank Williams, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have owned the property at different times, none of them used the property as their “home” and did not live there at any time.


– Fears over the property being demolished have caused concerned citizens to come forward to advocate for preservation of the property.


– A dispute remains over the current plans for the property by the current owner.

Beginning earlier in November—and rising to a fevered pitch over the last few days—there has been concern that the house of Hank Williams called Beechwood Hall is about to be demolished. Here is what we know:


What Is Beechwood Hall, or the H.G.W. Mayberry House?

Beechwood Hall is a plantation style home that was built by Henry George Washington Mayberry and his wife Sophronia Hunter “Sophia” Mayberry located in Williamson County, Tennessee, near Franklin. Construction on the property began in 1856, and it was completed in 1860. The 6,856-square-foot brick and stucco home utilized Italianate and Greek revival design styles, and was famous for its 40′ x 60′ hall with a freestanding spiral walnut staircase.

The original property was more than 1,000 acres and was an authentic Southern plantation, utilizing slave labor to tend the property that included a cotton gin, as well as peach and apple orchards. It is considered historically significant since it is one of the three largest plantations in Williamson County, Tennessee that predates the American Civil War, and one of the few structures that survived the Civil War and the Battle of Franklin.

Other Houses on the Property

Beechwood Hall, or the H.G.W. Mayberry House is not the only structure on the property, leading to much confusion, and misreporting in multiple outlets. Sometimes the square footage of Beechwood Hall will be misrepresented at 3,300 square feet. This is because there is a second historic structure on the property—a log cabin-style house built in 1850. There are also three smaller and newer residences throughout the property, as well as a large 12-stall horse barn.

In 2002, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill bought the entire property, which at that time consisted of 753 acres, and included all six of the structures. When Tim and Faith stayed on the property, they did not stay in Beechwood Hall, but in the long cabin-style house, which had been completely renovated and updated at that time.

Hank Williams Purchases Beechwood Hall, aka “The Farm”

A man named Robert Bailey who was married to the daughter of the original Beechwood Hall owner H.G.W. Mayberry kept up and preserved the house until 1944 when he sold the property to a man named E.E. Brown. In September of 1951, Hank Williams bought the property, in part off the success of Tony Bennett recording a version of Hank’s song “Cold Cold Heart.” This is according to Hank Williams historian and author Brian Turpen in his book, Ramblin’ Man: Short Stories from the Life of Hank Williams, which chronicles Hank’s purchase of the property.

At that time, the property consisted of “507 acres, more or less,” according to surveyors. Hank paid $60,000 for the property. But Hank never lived there, and never resided in Beechwood Hall. According to Brian Turpin, “When Hank bought the farm, Beechwood Hall was rundown and in need of repairs. Hank planned to refurbish the house, but it never came to pass.”

It’s worth underscoring due to the current dispute over the property that even when Hank Williams purchased Beechwood Hall 71 years ago, it was considered in need of refurbishing then. It’s also important to underscore that Hank Williams never lived in the house, and never spent any significant time in the house. Instead, he continued to live at his house at 4916 Franklin Road in Nashville.

“He referred to that as ‘The Farm,’” Hank Williams historian and country music performer Joey Allcorn tells Saving Country Music. “He kept horses and stuff at his house on Franklin Road, and moved them to The Farm. Would I call that Hank’s house? No. Is it a property that he owned? Yes.”

As Brian Turpen goes on to explain in his book Ramblin’ Man, Hank rented the farm to a man named F.H. Huff on November 9th, 1951. Huff was responsible for the property’s upkeep and maintenance, while Hank used the property as more of a retreat to go hunting, fishing, and to keep his horses on. At that time, Beechwood Hall was simply a feature of the property that was in need of renovation.

Troubled Times for Hank Williams

One significant Hank Williams event did happen on “The Farm” where Beechwood Hall resided. According to Hank Williams band member Jerry Rivers, it was on “The Farm” while jumping a ditch on horseback that Hank fell and injured his back, which required surgery in December of 1951. According to many country music historians, this is where the downward spiral for Hank Williams began after he began requiring more pain medication and alcohol to alleviate his chronic back pain.

By January 3rd, 1952, Hank Williams had moved out of the home he shared with wife Audrey Williams at 4916 Franklin Road in Nashville. Later in the divorce, Audrey would get the Franklin Road residence, and Hank would get “The Farm,” including Beechwood Hall. But since Hank was still renting the property to someone else, and by all accounts Beechwood Hall was basically unlivable, Hank moved in with Ray Price at his house at 2718 Westwood Avenue in Nashville.

Hank would also later move back in with his mother Lillie. After he was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and started performing on the Louisiana Hayride, Hank Williams married Billie Jean Jones [Horton], and lived in Louisiana.

In October of 1952, Hank Williams sold the “The Farm” property including Beechwood Hall to J. Truman Ward and Mary Maurice Ward for $28,500—less than half of the $60,000 he had paid for the property. Hank owned the property where Beechwood Hall stands for a grand total of 13 months. When he sold it, the property still consisted of 507 acres.

Misconceptions about the Hank Williams Song “Mansion On The Hill”

Multiple reports have tied the Hank Williams song “Mansion On The Hill” to Beechwood Hall, either as being inspired by it, about it, purchased by Hank Williams because of the song, or otherwise tied to the historic house. This appears to be untrue. According to Hank Williams biographer Colin Escott and others, “Mansion On The Hill” is likely one of a handful of songs from Hank’s catalog that was primarily written by co-writer and mentor Fred Rose as opposed to Hank Williams himself. Hank may have had a hand in “Mansion On The Hill,” but any ties to Beechwood Hall appear to be speculative.

Historical Designation, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

Beechwood Hall was named to the National Register of Historical Places in 1988. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill purchased the property in 2002, which at that time was enumerated to be 753 acres. But despite reports to the contrary, they never lived there, and instead lived in the 3,300 sq. ft. log-style cabin also on the property.

One question is what Tim McGraw and Faith Hill did or did not do to make sure that Beechwood Hall was kept up and preserved during their tenure as owners. The historical landmark had gone through efforts of restoration and preservation in the past, but the primary reason for concerns for the property now is the state of disrepair it is currently in with significant water and mold damage according to the current owners. Did Tim and Faith do their part to keep up Beechwood Hall?

In 2015, the couple sold off 131 acres from the property. When they sold the rest of the property in late June of 2021 to investor group BKDM for $15 million, it was enumerated as a 620-acre property.

Dispute Upon the Future Plans for Beechwood Hall

Beechwood Hall and a 268-acre parcel that it currently sits on is now owned by Larry Keele, who purchased it in 2021. Over the last few weeks, an uproar has ensued over the future of the property after drone footage revealed that a 1970s-era addition to the property was torn down, the historic staircase was removed, and other activities and anecdotal accounts claim the property is about to be demolished.

Mary Pearce, who is a former director of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and local preservationist says, “I have talked to the owner, and he has told me that he is not willing to commit to preserving the house. I have always felt like historic homes don’t have a voice. I went over to the county planning department to confirm what I already knew, that there wasn’t any protection for these homes unless they’re part of a subdivision, and they don’t even have to have a demolition permit.”

Leonora Clifford, who is the second-great-granddaughter of the original property owners, claims that she went to see the property in person in late October, and said on Instagram, “I was told directly it was to be torn down, and I did not misunderstand. A somewhat similar house was to be built on the site. The rear wing is on the ground in the burn pile.”

This caused a public uproar on social media, with Mike Wolfe of American Pickers who lives in Williamson County also expressing grave concern, and Kid Rock speaking out on Tucker Carlson’s Tuesday night (11-22) show about the potential demolition of Beechwood Hall.

A website called savebeechwood.org has been set up to advocate for the preservation of the historic landmark.

Misconceptions from the Fox News/Tucker Carlson Report

On November 22nd, Tucker Carlson dedicated a segment to the Beechwood Hall preservation on his show, and invited Kid Rock to speak on the matter. Some of the statements from the report deserves scrutiny and context.

“Tearing down Hank Williams’s house, an antebellum house, would not just constitute an assault on the soul of country music—a distinctly American art form. It would be an attack on the country itself,” Carlson stated while explaining the matter.

But as explained above, Beechwood Hall is not considered “Hank William’s house” by any Hank Williams historians or country music historians. It’s only a place Hank owned for 13 months as part of farm acreage. It is also not considered part of the “soul” of country music, though it does have some ties to the genre. That doesn’t mean Beechwood Hall should not be preserved, but it’s age, and its ties to pre-Civil War America are probably more justifiable reasons.

Tucker Carlson goes on to say, “Kid Rock appears to feel that way. He is of course a country music legend.”

Similarly to the characterization of Beechwood Hall, Kid Rock does have some ties to country music, but is not in any way considered “a country music legend” to anyone within the country music community. He is known much more as a rock and rap artist as opposed to a country artist, let alone a “legend.” In the Tucker Carlson report, it is also falsely expresses that Beechwood Hall was the former home of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Kid Rock does have some clout to speak on the matter. In 2018, Kid Rock helped preserve portions of a home in Bossier City, Louisiana where Hank Williams lived. Though the home had been heavily damaged, the lumber and building materials were all salvaged, catalogued, and transported to Rock’s Cowboy Town near Nashville.

Kid Rock goes on to assert that woke politics is what is behind the plan to destroy Beechwood Hall.


Response from Current Owner and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

In a joint statement from the current owner of Beechwood Hall, Larry Keele, and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, there is “no threat of imminent demolition” of the property. They say only the 1970s-eras back addition and landscaping features have been taken down, and the staircase was removed for preservation purposes.

Heritage Foundation President and CEO Bari Beasley says they have “been in regular conversation with the property owners, and the Foundation’s preservation team has conducted preliminary surveys of the property in preparation for solutions-driven conversations about the property’s future.”

Owner Larry Keele states in an email to the Williamson Herald, “The Heritage Foundation is in the process of securing the home for the winter on our behalf, and they have brought in their team of experts to assess the home’s condition. We did, however, remove the rear 1970s addition as it is not historical. We were informed that the stair banister within the home is one of the original parts of the house not yet impacted by heavy water damage and mold, and it was carefully removed and is now stored in a safe, conditioned space. We have also cleaned up many dead trees and replaced the old perimeter fence, which are the only items in the burn pile. Contrary to misinformation that is being published, no historical items have been placed in any burn pile, and there is no scheduled demolition. We have been disappointed and saddened at how our efforts have been portrayed in the community.”

Larry Keele has been a major donor to the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, and has been a part of its leadership society.

Conclusion

Though Beechwood Hall is most certainly a historical landmark and deserves preservation, its ties to country music should be placed in a proper context, and not subject to hyperbole in a way that could damage those preservation efforts by veering into the realm of fiction. Meanwhile, efforts should continue to preserve the property, hold the current owners and the previous owners of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill accountable for the current condition of the property, and for the efforts that have or have not been undertaken to ensure the viability of the property into the future.


Source link

Check Also

Joanne Shaw Taylor & Jon Allen – The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, England

Photo: Joanne Shaw Taylor by Laurence Harvey By Paul Monkhouse David Coverdale once intoned on …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.