This old house

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FRANKLIN—Brenda Perry knows a gem when she sees one.

The Florida woman, along with her husband, Clyde, purchased a vacant mansion at 1034 Clay St. in hopes of returning it to its former glory and opening it to the public as a bed and breakfast.

What they also landed was a piece of Franklin history.

The couple belongs to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and saw the federal-style house in a newsletter. Sensing its potential, Perry began to do a little digging about the home’s past.

Built in 1919 by James L. Camp, one of the founders of Camp Manufacturing, the federal-style mansion has 26 total rooms — five of which will become bedrooms for paying guests.

The Perrys purchased the home for $650,000 in November. The couple, who will be the fourth owners to occupy the house, had to apply with the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals for a conditional use permit to operate the business in a residential neighborhood. The application was approved on April 6 on several conditions.

“We did that to protect the character of the residential neighborhood,” explained Community Development Director Donald Goodwin. “Four or five people from the neighborhood spoke (at the public hearing) with some concerns. Those concerns were put to rest with these conditions.”

Brenda Perry said she was struck by the workmanship and design that went into the mansion, as well as the Camp family history in Franklin, especially the brothers who first purchased the lumber mill here in 1855.

Each time she came back to Franklin, she learned a bit more about the property and its past and potential, she said.

“I got to visit quite a bit last summer,” Perry said. “I got more information about the property and went to look at it several times.

“I became very interested in the brothers and in their faith in the community and the people there. I wanted to continue the legacy of that family, as well as create my home there.”

Perry said the story was too good to keep to herself and she decided to open a bed and breakfast there.

“I thought about ways to share the house, and that’s how that thought came,” she said.

The bed and breakfast, which is scheduled to open in the fall, will be called Windy Crest.

“Right now I am refurbishing each room,” Perry said. “I am trying to stay with the historical point of the house. I don’t need to necessarily change things, just enhance them.”

The Perrys have restored four old homes. They plan to move to Franklin fulltime once the Clay Street property is completely refurbished.

“I have to do some cosmetic refurbishing, drapery, redecorating and a lot of outside work,” she said. “From what I understand, it had the most beautiful gardens in Franklin and I am wanting to bring those back.”