Thursday, March 12, 2009

Now That's a House!

One of my many favorite aspects of history is architecture. The buildings of the past fascinate me almost as much as the people who used them. I think this interest developed at a young age when my family visited the Lanier Mansion in Madison, Indiana. If you have never been to the Ohio River town of Madison and you do enjoy historic architecture, I highly encourage you to make a visit.

I happen to be biased toward one style of architecture from my favorite era; the Federal style. This style was largely popular from roughly 1790 to 1830. Its symmetry and balance makes its buildings feel solid, but is aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Although the Federal style included diverse building materials such as wood frame clapboards and stucco, my favorite is classic red brick with a limestone foundation and white trim.

I suppose another reason I enjoy historic architecture so much is because most of these old buildings also have incredible stories to tell. The house pictured above is Carnton Mansion in Franklin, Tennessee. It was the home of the McGavock family and was used as a hospital after the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. The following is from their website:

Beginning at 4 p.m. on November 30, 1864, Carnton was witness to one of the bloodiest battles of the entire Civil War. Everything the McGavock family ever knew was forever changed. The Confederate Army of Tennessee furiously assaulted the Federal army entrenched along the southern edge of Franklin. The resulting battle, believed to be the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War, involved a massive frontal assault larger than Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The majority of the combat occurred in the dark and at close quarters. The Battle of Franklin lasted barely five hours and led to some 9,500 soldiers being killed, wounded, captured, or counted as missing. Nearly 7,000 of that number were Confederate troops. Carnton served as the largest field hospital in the area for hundreds of wounded and dying Confederate soldiers. A staff officer later wrote that "the wounded, in hundreds, were brought to [the house] during the battle, and all the night after. And when the noble old house could hold no more, the yard was appropriated until the wounded and dead filled that...."
On the morning of December 1, 1864 the bodies of four Confederate generals killed during the fighting, Patrick R. Cleburne, Hiram B. Granbury, John Adams, and Otho F. Strahl, lay on Carnton’s back porch. The floors of the restored home are still stained with the blood of the men who were treated here.

The McGavock family owned Carnton until 1911. In 1977 the Carnton Avocation was founded to help restore and preserve this important piece of American history.

There are wonderful examples of historic architecture around us everyday. Those of us who live in historic towns are especially fortunate to see these treasures on a daily basis. If you have a historic house or building museum in your area, take a few hours to go and visit them. Give them your admission fee support and help their efforts toward saving these architectural relics from days gone by.

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