CATEGORY: Lafayette County
by Eileen Bailey
Fiddler's Folly, located on North Lamar Street, was built between 1875 and 1878 by Charles Bowen Howry for his wife, Adonia Carter Howry. Howry was a judge in St. Louis who decided to move to Oxford to help his wife fight consumption, which today is known as tuberculosis.
The prefabricated home was designed by the father-and-son team of James and Alexander Stewart. The Stewarts were known for their designs of two Midwest Capitols and the Savoy Hotel in London.
Several different families have lived in the home through the years. Today the home is owned by Nan and Tom Davis, who bought it from Martha Elkins. The home was named for Elkins' husband's love for fiddles.
The Italianate townhouse-styled home features many Victorian touches on the exterior, including tall windows, woodwork and porches. The private home is known as an Italianate townhouse style because everything is symmetrical.
Inside, the home is decorated in an eclectic blend of antiques and modern furniture. Some of the pieces came from Family members, while others have been collected at estate sales.
OXFORD Fiddler's Folly traveled hundreds of miles down the Mississippi River, then across the state by mule-drawn wagon to Oxford.
The Italianate townhouse-styled Victorian home was assembled at 520 N. Lamar. And it continues to be assembled by the current owners, Nan and Tom Davis, who have renovated and updated the 1878 home since purchasing it 16 years ago.
"When we had to take the wood off in some places we found it was marked (indicating where it should go)," Nan Davis said.
The two-story home was built by Judge Charles Bowen Howry for his wife, Adonia Carter Howry, who suffered from tuberculosis.
Howry attended the University of Mississippi and was the first graduate of the law school after the end of the Civil War. He later became a trustee of the university, a U.S. district attorney for the Northern District, an assistant attorney general of the United States under President Cleveland and a judge with U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Howry lived in the home for two years before selling it to Judge R.A. Hill. It had other owners through the years before being sold to Martha and Jimmy Elkins.
When Oxford started its pilgrimage, the Elkins decided to put the home on the tour, but unlike other homes in town, it didn't have a name.
Jimmy Elkins played the fiddle as a hobby and had a collection of them throughout the home, Davis said. She said she was once told by Elkins that owning a big old house is a folly, hence the name "Fiddler's Folly."
Before purchasing the home, the couple lived in an apartment. Davis said she had always wanted to live in an older home but her husband didn't. One day, he came home and told her it was for sale.
"He said he wanted to see it because it had character," she said.
They weren't the first people to look at the home, but were able to buy it when the first couple backed out. Within a short period of time, they went from living in a duplex to owning a 4,000-square-foot home, Davis said. They didn't even have enough furniture to fill the home.
"Our home is an eclectic home. We have furniture that is older than the house and we have some that is brand new," she said.
In renovating the home, Davis said they've tried to keep to the Victorian style but at the same time provide modern conveniences.
There is no furniture original to the home in Fiddler's Folly, but the Elkins left behind an antique mirror that hangs above one of the marble fireplaces in the home.
Davis said she purchased some of the older furniture, such as a dining room table and chairs, at an estate sale in Como.
Rich colors of paint and wallpaper can be found throughout the home. In the sun room, one of the most recent additions, the walls are a dark eggplant. Where she could, Davis used Victorian-style wallpaper patterns, such as the deep scarlet in the entryway. Pocket doors that had been stationary for many years were repaired and now work once again.
Heart-of-pine floors shine in the rooms downstairs.
The renovated kitchen features hand-painted tiles as a backsplash, works of art and an Empire couch against one wall.
Pottery and paintings from Mississippi artisans, such as McCarty Pottery of Merigold and a print by famed Oxford painter Theora Hamblett, can be found in the home.
The Davises continue to work on their home, this time on the outside. The exterior of the home, which was used in the 1950s movie "Home from the Hills" starring Robert Mitchum, is being painted blue and will have purple and white trim.
"An old house is a never-ending project," Davis said.