When Kathy and Phil Fisher found this circa 1845 cottage, it was love at first sight.
By Susan Marquez | Photos by Mary Fitzgerald
Kathy and Phil Fisher were perfectly happy in their Post Road home in Clinton. With a paid mortgage, they could have been happy there forever. Until they found Tanglewood.
The circa 1845 cottage sits directly across from City Hall in Clinton on Jefferson Street, although it wasn’t built on the site. According to Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, the home was relocated to its current location in 1878. “The home was moved ten miles to reach its final destination,” Phil says, “all the way from Norrell Road outside of Clinton. You have to wonder what it was like to move a home such a long distance. That was before motorcars. I’m sure those were some mad oxen!” Phil says the home is supported on two by fourteen feet axe cut beams.
Depending on whom you ask, either of the Fishers first “discovered” the home. “We had always said we’d like to renovate and live in a historic home in Olde Town, if the right one came along,” Kathy says. I saw this home while knocking around in Olde Town Clinton one day and told Phil about it. He really didn’t have much of a response, so I dropped it.” A couple of weeks later, Phil saw the home and realized it was for sale. “He came home and told me about it and I said that’s the same house I had told you about earlier!”
Together, they went to see the home and despite its deteriorating condition, it was love at first sight. The home belonged to the Fox brothers, one of whom was actually born in the house. And despite its outward appearance, the home was actually in sound structural shape. The front part, the original part of the home, required very little restoration. The front porch had to be rebuilt, but inside, the structure features 14' ceilings, and all the woodwork, including the wood floors, are original. “We added central air and heat, an alarm system and we had the floors sanded and refinished,” Kathy says. A small bathroom in one of the bedrooms was turned into a closet. Otherwise, the front section of the house remains as it did when it was built.
Kathy’s cousin, Ouida Green, an interior designer from Atlanta, came to Clinton to help decorate the home. “I used Benjamin Moore historical colors,” said Ouida. “That’s important because the Fishers are applying for the home to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.” The color palette includes soft neutrals, which are surprisingly contemporary, supporting Ouida’s theory that colors come in and out of vogue just like fashion.
Furnishing the home was fairly easy, as most of the furniture came with the house. “It was amazing what all was left in the home,” Kathy says. “We just filled in here and there with some things we had and antiques of the period that we purchased.”
One of the most remarkable furnishings was the piano in the parlor. It was built in 1880 and is the centerpiece of the room. “I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano,” Kathy says. “Now I can learn to play on this one!” Also in the room are two comfortable chairs and a settee. “The furniture didn’t look like this when we got it,” Kathy laughs. “We had all the furniture restored by Kevin Horne and Kurt Loftin at Caneridge in Utica.” Phil marveled at the job they did restoring the home’s furnishings. “Some of it was in such bad condition, we thought it would have to be trashed. The hall tree in the foyer was in pieces, and the breakfast room table had veneer peeling up on top. But they made it all look brand new.”
The home has a storied past, according to Phil. “It was Sherman’s headquarters after the siege of Vicksburg, only for a night or two, before he moved on to Jackson.” The building next door was originally a horse stable, and will soon be 303 Jefferson, a fine dining restaurant.
Several interesting discoveries were made while restoring the home. “Over the years, the drainage of the property shifted, and we had to dig a drainage ditch around the house,” Phil said. “In doing so, a headstone was discovered. It was engraved with Rev. Thomas Ford, 1801 - 1873.” As the District Four Hinds County Supervisor, Phil has gotten reports of found headstones and he knew just what to do. “I called the Department of Archives and History to report it, and I spoke with Walter Howard, who is a historian. He told me that the headstone was a duplicate of the real one that sits on Ford’s grave. Research revealed that Ford founded Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson, as well as First United Methodist Church in Clinton and others. He also sat on the first Board of Directors of Mississippi College, which was originally called Hampstead Academy when it was chartered by the legislature in 1826.”
The Fishers discovered other historic finds as the home was being renovated. “We found a can of old padlocks,” Phil says, “and behind the glass of an old mirror we found an advertisement from the 1920's with a woman showing Octagon products.” The advertisement’s colors are still quite vivid, and can now be seen beneath the glass of a coffee table in Phil’s library, along with the padlocks on display. “We even found a sealing wax stamp,” says Kathy. “It has the letter ‘F’ on it, for Fox, but now it’s for Fisher!”
Phil says there’s a cistern somewhere around the house, and they are anxious to find it. “We think we’ll find all sorts of treasures inside, if only we can find it. We thought we had found it two or three times, but those were false alarms.”
Today the home has three bedrooms and two baths. There are two fireplaces, but the chimneys were taken out at some point, so they are nonfunctional, although they still have the original tile around the front. “The fireplace in the parlor has the same tile found in the Governor’s Mansion,” Phil says. The other fireplace features an indigo blue tile that was popular during the time the home was built. The kitchen of the home was once a back porch, and the floors sloped a good bit. “It drove our contractor, Dale Keith, crazy,” Kathy says. “He primarily builds new homes, and he likes things to be perfect. In a historic home like this, there’s no such thing as perfect.” What used to be a separate apartment on the back of the house has been turned into a comfortable master suite.
Historian Nancy Bell says that the home was built by Nancy and Andrew Thomas for their daughter, Mary Jane. She married James A. Crittle in 1844. He was a planter and a partner in the merchandise firm of Thomas & Crittle. The home is in the Greek Revival vernacular. “The planter’s cottage was the predominant style during that time,” says Nancy. The home’s full facade gallery is one of two in the Clinton area. The other is The Cedars. “That’s what makes this home important,” Nancy says. “It’s one of two that are still intact, and it’s a rare example. I’m thrilled to see the Fishers restore this home. It’s a lovely addition to the Olde Towne area.”