Friday, February 15, 2013

The Townhouse, Franklin, VA

I walked by it for at least five years yearning to rescue it somehow, someday. The Townhouse, as it was well known throughout the city by Franklin natives and Southampton County natives, was a big wonderful, majestic piece of art and a very important part of Franklin's history in it's heyday. Ca. 1900, this grand Colonial Revival mansion continued to stand proud at the corner of Beaman and South High Street beckoning to be restored to it's once opulent appearance. 205 South High Street, by my will, would see a renaissance. The only pictures I have of this house are in ruins and finally, the sad story that brought it to rubble. Pieces of it strewn about like it had been in a war, brought on by it's own city. The city that had no compassion or responsibility for it's own reputation it once brought them.

The Townhouse was owned first by the Pretlow family. The Pretlow family owned a store in Franklin's downtown on the corner of Main and Second Avenue.The mansion changed hands to Hal Lyons on July 10, 1947. Mr. Lyons would then renovate it as a fine Inn that would mimic the style of an early 19th century Inn. He had created a Nationally well known Inn. It had received highest ratings in such publications as "Gourmet," "Duncan Hines," and the A.A.A. books according to a Tidewater Newspaper Article I found in the local library. It was recognized as "Tidewater's finest caravansary" that drew visitors from far and wide leaving them with a lasting memory of tradition in Virginia.

Hal Lyon was a musician, he owned two movie theaters (one in Franklin, the other in Boykins,VA), he was a part of many organizations serving locally, state, nation, and worldwide. He owned businesses in Tuscon, Arizona, a large ranch; a housing development in Phoenix, Arizona; and many hotels abroad including Honolulu, Hawaii. He was married and had one daughter. Hal and his wife are buried in the Poplar Forest Cemetery in Franklin. I have talked to many local people whom have lived in Franklin long enough to remember Mr. Lyons. They all agree that he was a strange character indeed. I can only surmise his personality may have reflected that because he was a very intelligent human being indeed.

I had an ongoing love affair for this homes underlying beauty that once graced this end of town. It's luster had faded, but I could see it shine through. Not something that everyone could see when they look at an "old, dilapidated" house. I heard a lot of people say that the house needed to be "brought down, "demolished," "tore down." Wiped off the face of the planet like it NEVER existed! All words that ripped at my heart strings. It could most definitely be brought back to what it was and I was determined to do it!