Saving The Hardy/Williams House - And Response

Monday, October 9, 2017
On a plot just south of Cravens House, on the side of Lookout Mountain is a 1920s Tudor Revival cottage.  Although its existence is obscured by a large outcropping of rock and the Ohio monument, to the curious visitor it beckons. A short walk and a closer look might make you think that someone’s happily-ever-after was cut short.  The storybook-style house has slowly fallen into neglect over the past two decades. Ivy and vines have grown to its roof line, the green paint on its timbers is peeling, and the stucco is blackened in places by mold.
  A quick peek inside a window reveals that many of its decorative features, like fireplace mantel and ironwork, have been salvaged, absconded by thieves, or, hopefully, removed and stored by the local Park Service. 

There’s nothing modern about this house.  The two baths on the first floor are period with green and pink tile.  The kitchen is small and gutted.  It’s so original, that even in its abandoned state, it’s like being back in time.
 
The home was built in 1928 by Edith Soper Hardy.  Her husband, industrialist, and a former mayor of Chattanooga, Richard “Dick” Hardy, died suddenly on August 14th, 1927.  In his will, he specified that $25,000 would be pulled from his trust so his wife could purchase or build a home to her liking.  Mrs. Hardy chose to tear down their cottage on Shingle Road and build a new one in its place.  She employed a popular Chattanooga-based architect, Clarence T. Jones.  At the same time, Jones was working on the J.B. Pound residence, Stonedge, on Lookout, and perhaps his design caught her eye?  Mrs. Hardy had plans for the old house drawn up a few months after her husband’s death showing the placement of various structures, walls, trees, a vegetable garden, cement walkways, and some of the property’s unique stone and rock storage areas.

The Hardys moved to Chattanooga from Chicago in 1910. From the beginning, they were both well-liked and active in the community.  Edith was quite independent with her interests from her husband’s business and charitable activities. As the founder of the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga, she would later become a national figure among humanitarians as a director of The American Humane Association and spent a year volunteering for the Red Star Society in New York City, New York. The Red Star provided much-needed medical supplies, veterinarians, and ambulances to the over 8 million horses, mules, and other animals that were used on the front lines during WWI.  When she returned home, she continued her work with the Red Star by raising money locally, and developed local training courses for those desiring to enter the Army veterinary corps.

As president of the Humane Society, Mrs. Hardy was deputized and licensed to carry a gun.  She could legally put down a suffering animal, even when its owner objected. And call in an animal abuser for prosecution. Mr. Hardy joked that he didn't dare go home and complain of a headache for fear Mrs. Hardy would shoot him with the gun.
 
In 1919, the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga added battered and abused children to their mission. Because of the lack of child abuse laws on the books at that time, animal abuse laws were often utilized to punish abusers.  
 
It was said of Mrs. Hardy, "Her love for her own beautiful horses has made her interested in all others and she has given of her time and means so generously to the work of the Humane Society that her recent election as president, though adding to her burdens, was recognized as a deserved tribute. Dogs and birds, cats, horses, mules, all receive her loving ministration. Her loving manner in rebuking a brutal driver or thoughtless owner for some cruelty is so gentle yet so authoritative that few resent it."

Ethel Soper Hardy died at her brother’s house in North Carolina in 1944 at age 68. In 1947 the Williams' family moved in and would spend over 50 years in the home. 
 
Since 2001 The National Park Service has owned the property and house.  Originally, they planned to renovate the home and garage/servants quarters into lodging for rangers and bathrooms for the Cravens site.  The renovations to the home would cost an estimated $1.2 million.  It was therefore decided that the house would be removed, and in a 2013 article of the Chattanoogan.com, a ranger was quoted as saying that the property would become parking.  Although there is an alternative plan to restore the property to its Civil War native landscaping.  
 
The Williams/Hardy House, also known as Littleholme, is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park have also acknowledged the home’s historic importance to Chattanooga.  Yet it remains endangered from being torn down.  There has been a home on the site for almost 120 years, and almost as long as the Park itself.  

About a month back, I asked Ann Gray of Cornerstones if the house was ever on their list of endangered properties?  She quickly replied that she didn’t know about the Williams/Hardy House and asked me to explain.  I replied immediately with the information, and after two follow-up emails, I’ve not received a reply.
 
There are many examples in the Park that are part of its history beyond the Civil War.  Even the Cravens House is a post Civil War structure.  Many of the cabins, the Ochs Memorial, the Visitor Center, and of course all of the monuments aren’t part of a Civil War timeline.  Under a private trust or organization, the ¼ acre site that the Williams/Hardy House sits on could certainly serve a purpose that complements the Park and its long history, much like the other post War additions and facilities.  When I recently asked a park official about accessing the house, I was denied because of safety and liability reasons.  When I explained that a group might be interested in raising money to restore the property, I did not receive an email back.  A regional organization also reached out to the same contact, and their questions about a local private organization raising money for a restoration project were ignored.  Instead, a park official reiterated plans to tear down the house and accessory structures within the next few years.
 
Even with the expense and anticipated problems with the home, the Government should at the very least give a credible public effort a chance to save this history, to come up with a sustainable purpose and a proposal for its use without using Federal funds. It’s an under-utilized area at the edge of the Park, and parking potentially could be placed south and adjacent to the Williams/Hardy House, which would restore the cement parking pad for the Cravens House to a more appropriate grassy landscape.
 
"Post tenebras spero lucem" or, "After darkness, I hope light"
 
This Latin inscription was above the great room fireplace in tile, which since has been removed. 
Walls can talk.  I can only hope the Park Service will eventually listen. 
 
You can find out more about the Williams/Hardy House at https://www.facebook.com/savinglittleholme/
 
 PS A quick update that Ann Gray from Cornerstones Inc. did contact me shortly after this editorial was posted, and apologized for not being in touch sooner.  She also informed me that although their mission is primarily focused on commercial structures in the downtown area, they do make acceptions occasionally for inclusion onto their endangered property list.  


The Williams/Hardy House, or Littleholme, will be added to their list of endangered properties due to its local historical significance and its current state of endangerment of being torn down by the National Park Service.  

David Moon

(David Moon founded Picnooga, a local historical organization, four years ago.  Picnooga brings local history to the surface and makes it available to everyone.) 

 

* * * 

After the loss of Terminal Station's Tower, Chattanoogans should adopt a louder, single voice opposing the destruction of historic structures.  Adding the Hardy/Williams House to the National Register of Historic Places may not guarantee its protection, however it prevents federal funds from being used to tear down the structure.  The quick inclusion onto the NRHP is how our iconic Walnut Street Bridge was saved from demolition. 

In regards to Cornerstones, please do not hold your breath, Mr. Moon.  Instead of fighting on behalf of historic structures who on the brink of destruction from overzealous developers, Director Ann Gray enjoys her role as a professional event planner (Wine Over Water) and accepts "sponsorships" from developers (Choo Choo) as silence money.  But I digress.

Justin Strickland 



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