From the earliest records of architecture in ancient Rome, a building should be durable, useful, and beautiful. These attributes have distinguished good design for at least two thousand years. The structures in Athens very well illustrate the interplay and relative importance of the three attributes.
If you have read about the early history of Athens you might wonder, given the circumstances that faced early settlers, who were focused on survival and making a living, how they could have been concerned about the third attribute (beauty). Yet, even the very first home in Athens, the Fanning House, illustrates a simple eloquence. Similarly, the Vermillion home place started as a log cabin but the family built around the original structure a two-story frame house that was durable, useful, and beautiful. Another pioneer home, The French House just outside of Athens, borrowed Greek Revival architecture in the design of beautiful cornices, corbels and decorative features..
The older homes in the Athens We Knew were built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many of these, like the Holroyd homes featured below, were not only durable and useful, but strikingly beautiful, illustrating stunning architectural detail influenced by the Victorian era. Many of these homes have been kept in good repair or restored. Unfortunately others have been neglected and some were destroyed.
With an eye for design, a visitor can make judgements about how the three attributes influenced those who built homes in Athens. A neighborhood tour of Athens with a camera,is a good way to better understand the important role architecture plays in the community. The sections below include photographs and descriptions of many old and some newer homes in Athens.
Families and Their Homes Help Define the Community
The Holroyd Homes
The early settlers of Athens left for others to enjoy the homes they had designed and built. Among those illustrated in the sections Pioneer Days and Late 19th & 20th Century above, the Holroyd family homes illustrate beauty by both simplicity and elaborate detail. After the Civil War Reverend William Holroyd relocated his family from a couple of miles away to what is now Athens, where he built the Mountain House. Rev. Holroyd had been the pastor of the Methodist Church in the growing community since 1858. The preacher obtained a license to operate an "ordinary," or ale house, within the building. The Mountain House was located on what property where Parker Bros. store used to stand and where the First Community Bank is currently situated.
Three homes were built by sons of Rev. Holroyd--Samuel, William and James. Samuel and William were physicians and James was on the faculty at Concord State Normal School. The home of Samuel Reynolds Holroyd on North State Street is shown to the right (and here) soon after construction. Built three stories tall and topped with an impressive turret, the house was understandably called the "Holroyd Mansion" at the time. It is still impressive. More recent photographs are here and here. Joe Blankenship, the current owner, opened it for photographs in 2012 during his restoration process. A gallery of exterior and interior photographs taken at that time here . There is an alternate view here that opens in a new page or tab.
William Henderson Holroyd built his home on Vermillion Street just west of the Methodist Church, as shown soon after construction is here. The house included ornate gingerbread trim in the gables, a second-level balcony overlooking the growing town, and touches of stained glass in the upper double-hung windows. With central fireplaces and bay windows on both the first and second levels, the house demonstrated a wonderful blend of durability, usefulness, and beauty. The Bradley's, who owned a pharmacy and confections store next door, lived in the house for many years. Unfortunately, the house was demolished.The James French Holroyd House was built on South State Street. It is pictured above in the anchor photo for Late 19th and 20th Century houses. A side view is here. Daughter "Miss Ella" Holroyd lived in the home thoughout her life. Recent photos taken during a visit in 2011 are here.