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National Register: Turley House

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

John A. Turley House, 505 East Madison Street, Athens built 1887.

The John A. Turley House located at 505 E. Madison Avenue in Athens, McMinn County,

Tennessee is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criterion C for its

architectural significance to Athens. The house was the first house built in the affluent Ingleside Addition. The house has exceptional architectural detailing and is one of the most elaborate in the Ingleside Addition. There have been few changes to the house since its construction in 1887.

John A. and Mary Turley purchased the land for his house on Madison Avenue on March 12, 1887, for $266 from the Athens Mineral Land and Improvement Company that was developing an addition to the town of Athens that would be settled by the wealthier citizens of Athens. The Turleys lived in the house with their eight children.

Turley was born in 1846 and had been a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After the war he was active in developing the Cog Hill Academy in Polk County and the Cane Creek Academy (begun in 1878) in Decatur, Meigs County.

Another interest of Turleys was politics. He served on the county commission, and ran for the State Senate. He was Chairman of the State Railroad Commission, Postmaster of Athens, and held a position in the Government Land Office.

John A. Turley was sworn in as a practicing attorney in 1886. In 1891 J. A. Turley and Sons

opened a general goods store in the Magill Block on the courthouse square in Athens.

When Turley built his house in Athens he had already become a prominent citizen of Athens, one who had made his money through real estate speculation. It was because of this real estate speculation that the Turleys lost possession of the house in 1898 when the house was used as collateral on a promissory note. The economy had entered a depression and the Turleys were unable to pay the note. In May 1899 the house was purchased by a group of attorneys who sold it in November 1899 to Nellie B. Keith for $2,200.

Nellie B. Keith moved into the house with her children, and lived there until her death in 1930. In 1932 her children Charles and Louise divided the lot which John A. Turley had purchased and sold the part containing the house to Laura Sherman. Laura Sherman was the first wife of Tom Sherman, owner of the Sherman Concrete Pipe Company that had plants in Athens, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Florida. Tom Sherman owned the house until 1963 when the property was conveyed to his second wife. Sue Carter Sherman.

In 1973 the property was sold to Richard Harold, Jr. and B. Stanby, and was sold in 1978 to Berneice Lovelady, the current owner. The Ingleside addition of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee was developed beginning in the 1880s for upper middle class residents of Athens. The Turley house, built in 1887, was the first house constructed in the addition. Construction of new houses continued through the 1920s and ended with the beginning of the depression in 1929. Houses built in the addition were two-story Queen Anne style or Colonial Revival style houses. The Queen Anne style houses were constructed between 1887 and circa 1893. The economic recession that began in 1893 ended new construction until after 1900. There were only two Queen Anne style houses built in the addition before the recession hit. The other house is adjacent to the Turley house, it is a two-and-a-half story frame building with wrap-around porch with a tower over the porch on the second story. An elaborately turned balustrade is on the porch, the roof is shingled with pressed metal shingles. The Colonial Revival style houses were built between 1900 and 1930, they have classical columns, window surrounds, symmetry, and cornice moldings of the style. There are also several Bungalow style houses that were built after 1920. They are primarily one-story with overhanging eaves, knee braces and massive porch supports.

The Ingleside addition was the only addition to be developed for the upper-class of Athens during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Turley house is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style of architecture in Athens, and is an early example of houses built in this development in the town.


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