19th Century school turned inn bestows Americana holiday experience

Since 1888, people have been able to look from Franklin Terrace and view parts of the Town of Franklin as well as the mountains beyond. Guests have enjoyed holiday and other traditions at Franklin Terrace for more than a century.

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

A mountain and town view from an expansive porch, coupled with 19th century ambiance and rich historical décor, results each year in a quintessentially “Americana” holiday atmosphere for Franklin Terrace Bed & Breakfast’s Innkeeper Maureen Williams. Every time of the year in Franklin is special, she pointed out, since she is able to meet “such interesting people” from close by and as far away as Europe or Australia. But Williams said the holidays often brings to the area individuals and families in particularly festive moods. 

Innkeeper Maureen Williams makes certain that the breakfast area tables are decorated for the holidays so guests can experience true “Americana” and “nostalgic charm” in keeping with the 19th century built structure.

“I always make a hearty breakfast for guests of fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, grits or sausage gravy, a French toast casserole or hand-made danishes, lots of homemade whipped cream, biscuits, jam, and syrup,” said Williams, “It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. But for Thanksgiving I will suggest places for them to eat if they don’t have family nearby, and for Christmas we always have eggnog and sing Christmas carols and I give treats to any children who are here – plus I make and serve more pastries.” 

Of course, Williams has been taking COVID-19 precautions since the State allowed bed and breakfasts to reopen a few months ago. She said there is plenty of room to spread out, especially on the expansive upstairs and downstairs porches with wicker seating that guests use “no matter what the weather is outside.” 

Williams, a retired New York and then Florida commercial realtor purchased the 10-years-shuttered Franklin Terrace with her son, Paul Thatcher, five years ago. After a four-month renovation, she opened with a focus on a natural fall decorating theme from October through November. Vases of faux colorful leaves, twigs, and berry sprigs adorn the ornate mantel – moved, Williams has been told, from the old Franklin courthouse before it was torn down. Miniature pumpkin-head scarecrows decorate breakfast tables. After Thanksgiving, Williams sets up a large Christmas tree in the entryway next to an 1886 British-made piano and she makes certain that plenty of fresh, seasonal greenery fills the nine-bedroom bed and breakfast. 

Nine guest rooms, many of which are apportioned with antiques original to the inn, welcome people from near and far.

When she was a young woman, Williams said she entertained the idea of owning and operating an inn. But life pushed plans to the back burner. She moved to Macon County 25 years ago and has always “loved” old and historic structures. When she learned of Franklin Terrace’s availability, she decided to put her career skills of managing hotels and motels to use on a smaller, “more intimate” scale. 

“This place has so much charm,” said Williams, who also calls Franklin Terrace her home. “Operating a bed and breakfast is so much more hands-on because the staff is smaller and part time, but I’ve enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and from very close who want a ‘staycation.’ One guest who stayed here lived in walking distance. I’ve been surprised at how many young people are guests. I think so many people enjoy the experience of its history.” 

A Long and Female-Concentrated History

Brightly colored foliage conveying a fall theme decorates the Franklin Terrace mantel until after Thanksgiving and then is replaced with Christmas greenery. A large Christmas tree traditionally adorns this front foyer as well.

Franklin Terrace is so historic that it has both a National Register of Historic Places designation from the U.S. Department of Interior as well as a Women’s History Trail plaque. Women’s History Trail deemed Franklin Terrace, perched on a small hill on Harrison Avenue, as one of its sites due to its significance for women since 1888, when it was built by the Methodist Episcopal Church as the Franklin Female Academy.

Even when it is cold during the holidays, and during every season since the early 1900s, people have enjoyed both the upstairs and downstairs expansive porches at Franklin Terrace.

In the early 1900s, Franklin High School moved into the building – until the Franklin Graded School was built. For five years the building was vacant, and then it began its new life as an inn. While the structure at its interior is brick, layers have been added over the years: wood porches, a dining room, and more. Mary Willis, daughter of John and Kate Willis, who purchased the property in 1915, was listed as the inn’s “proprietress” in a 1930 census. 

Over the years, the inn has changed hands, with women primarily operating the business. The Women’s History Trail shares in its educational, walking-trail brochure, which can be picked up at the Macon County Historical Museum on Main Street: “Female entrepreneurs gave a boost to the tourism industry. Neighbors of the Franklin Terrace remember the ‘delightful’ bridge teas hosted for the locals …”

“I, too, like to give teas sometimes, and I often sit on the porch and think about how women came here outfitted in beautiful dresses,” said Williams.  

Williams said she is enjoying carrying on the tradition of the mostly female-run business, and she has especially relished opportunities to speak with people who visit Franklin Terrace on nostalgia excursions because they honeymooned there, were inspired by creatively, or enjoyed past holidays at the inn. 

Many of the furnishings are original to the inn, including an ice box, leather-topped sideboard, and some of the art. The furnishings add to the overall Americana experience, pointed out Williams. “And at this time of the year when guests visit the “delightful Franklin shops and see the holiday decorations, the lights, and feel the friendliness of the town … there is the feeling of nostalgic charm.”