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Guildwood/ Laurel Farm/James Place

Updated: Jun 19

South Water St. Gallatin, TN

Circa 1890. 3-story Smith's Queen Anne/ Gingerbread style

Originally located on South Water Street, Guildwood was built in 1890 by Col. Baxter Smith (1832-1919) and Betty Guild Smith (1831-1927) on 229 acres. Betty was a daughter of Josephus Conn and Catherine Blackmore Guild, and the Smith's mansion was across the street from the Guild's Rose Mont.

Photo from Jerry Lumpkin Facebook

The land had been the Rose Mont stables and was inherited by Betty. Col. Smith was an attorney and local politician. After serving in the Civil War, he continued his legal career in Nashville, Gallatin and Chattanooga. He served as a state senator from 1879-1881. Just 10 years later, about 1900, the Smith family moved to Nashville and then to Chattanooga. After two years on the market, in 1902, G. R. Hill bought the property.

Four years later, in 1906, it was sold to Stoughton J. (S. J.) Fletcher (1851-1909), an Indianapolis businessman. Fletcher was married to Lizzie Laurel Locke Fletcher (1854-1884) in 1876. S.J. had built a huge mansion with 6 acres near Indianapolis named Laurel Hall for his wife. He renamed it Laurel Farm for a spoiled daughter. He accumulated major real estate holdings in Indianapolis and founded and was president of Fletcher Bank (later Fletcher National Bank).

Fletcher purchased Guildwood for investment purposes. He subdivided the property into 29 lots for public auction in 1913. The acreage fronted the main roads of Woods Ferry and Coles Ferry. In addition, the Gallatin-Nashville Interurban rail line ran close by. Although very wealthy for a time, his business preparations for The Great War took too long, and government contracts were canceled causing him to lose most of his money.

Photo from Jerry Lumpkin Facebook

Their daughter, Laurel, met and married Booth Tarkington, who was friends with a Guild brother.William Alexander Guild lived at Rose Mont and was a Princeton classmate of Tarkington. Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived, and Tarkington returned to Indiana and then moved to Hollywood. He became a good writer, and later wrote the national best-selling and Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Magnificent Ambersons” based on the Sumner Co. social set, Laurel Farm and Langley Hall. Orsen Welles later made the book into a movie. In 1911, A. N. Kirkland purchased the property.

About sixteen years later, in 1922, Sam James became the owner and renamed the property James Place. The James family held the home until the late 1950s. Afterwards, the mansion was vacant and fell into poor shape. It was destroyed in 1977. See Idlewild, Rose Mont


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