This blog is part two of a two-part series on historic Breezeway
By Rachael Finch, Senior Director of Preservation & Education
Saving places big and small can leave last impacts within a community. Because when we save places, we save stories. However, preserving homes is equally important. Our homes are time capsules; within its walls hold our cherished memories of celebrating holidays, birthdays, and everyday life. But saving historic homes is not as easy as it may seem. Sometimes, historic homes are threatened by demolition for new development. The mission of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County is to advocate for saving the places and sharing all stories that matter in our communities. We inspire and engage citizens for why they should care about preserving our historic and cultural resources. Looking back on the multiple preservation projects our organization advocated for over the years, one that is close to home is the historic Herbert house, better known as Breezeway.
Not too long ago, I had the distinctive pleasure of spending time with Debbie and Skipper Carlisle to learn more about their love of history, and their journey to restore and steward historic Breezeway. This blog post tells their story. Enjoy!
— Rachael Finch
Many of us love historic homes. But historic homes are more than just brick and mortar (and in the case of Breezeway, logs). It is its people who give it its strength and character. Until this summer, I had not visited Breezeway. I knew of the home and its history as well as its preservation story, but I had yet to meet its owners. Little did I realize that my invitation to meet with the Carlisles would blossom into a wonderful friendship. And though it is bittersweet to see them leave Williamson County, it is our joint hope we may find the right family or individual to become the next stewards of historic Breezeway.
When Debbie and Skipper agreed to speak with me as a part of this blog series, I knew I would walk away with a special story. Stepping inside of the home, I immediately felt the home embrace me with its warm and inviting hues. Debbie said to me, “Rachael, you have to stand on the front porch and take in the view!” As I turned and stepped back out onto the front porch, with the sun setting along the ridge, the view was simply stunning.
As we walked into the living room and sat down in front of the fire, Debbie began to share their story. Or as Debbie said, “This has been a journey.” I was ready to take it with her. And so, it begins here. “My passion has always been antiques. I would travel to Nashville twice a year from Gulfport [Mississippi] with my best friend to the wonderful antique shows in Nashville. I always felt I found my home in Middle Tennessee and would be saddened to leave each visit. Skip and I lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and experienced hurricanes and humidity but when Katrina [hurricane] hit, that was the last straw. Franklin was always my first choice to find our perfect old home and it took several years before we found Breezeway.”
“Breezeway…. wow. It was in total disrepair and sinking into the ground when we first laid eyes on it. It was a six-room log house and that’s it. But I fell in love with it, and we purchased it without Skip even seeing it! When I returned home to Gulfport and showed him the pictures his reaction was, ‘dear God! What have you done??!!’ After the purchase, I contacted one of the Herbert family members through [at the time] Executive Director Mary Pearce of the Heritage Foundation. The Herbert family member was Mrs. Ann Herbert Floyd. Ms. Ann and I became close friends, and she was my support and my cheerleader throughout the whole restoration process. I was a total novice at restoration but was determined to show that this house was a gem. Months of meetings with different departments in the City of Franklin offices, including codes, the historic zoning commission, as well as various historic organizations, did wear on me and Skip. It was very frustrating at times as we also had to deal with the developers of the Breezeway subdivision.”
“But through it all, I had Ms. Ann to help me through this long and arduous process. The Heritage Foundation was always there to help me navigate preservation concerns along the way. I wanted the home to retain all or as much of its history as possible and have the modern additions complement each other. I really did my homework too. I had wonderful craftsmen to help make Breezeway what it is today. But now, we are selling our beloved home to be with our grandchildren in Colorado. This is truly a bittersweet moment for me and Skip, but I’ll cherish all the years we lived here.”
As I prepared to leave Breezeway, Debbie and I hugged each other, and I thanked her for sharing not only their journey but their passion for preservation and cultural heritage stewardship. Owning a historic home is not just about you and/or your family. It is about the families who once called it home and for the future families who will call it home.
Debbie and Skipper Carlisle are truly living into what it means to steward a historic property. And it is their hope, someone will care and steward historic Breezeway. So, how can you express your love for an old house? Some may say the simple answer is to live in one. But like Debbie’s story, it may require a willingness to take the journey, ask for guidance, and find a cheerleader to champion and encourage you.
(If you are interested in stewarding this historic property, here is additional information.)