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Windermere: Part of the Eastern Flank of the Battle of Franklin

Updated: Feb 2

George Limerick Cowan (1842-1919) wed Harriet “Hattie” Young McGavock (1855-1932) in 1884 at her family home, Carnton. He came as a child with his family from Ireland. He was nearly 50 years of age and owned a wholesale business with his brothers in Nashville. The couple continued living at Cowan’s residence in Nashville.

Photo from Historic Assessment Report for Windermere

Hattie received 100 acres from her father of Carnton land the next year, and in 1887, her father sold 47 more acres to the couple on which they built their home on what is now Carnton Lane. At that point, George did move from Nashville to Franklin and the couple lived at Windermere. The home was constructed just west of Carnton. They received property as a wedding gift from her father, John McGavock of Carnton Plantation. It is unclear whether the home existed prior or was built for them. It was originally a one story gable Eastlake cottage brick home. Over the years, substantial changes have been made.

Windermere in the 1890s, from Historic Assessment Report

Windermere was a working farm bringing in income for the Cowans. By 1910, George advertised to sell the farm’s equipment and indicated a desire to retire from farming. By 1913, George and Hattie had moved into a home on Bridge St. in Franklin. They sold the Windermere property to real estate speculator Walter Roberts who turned it around in a year.

In 1915, Claiborne Holmes Kinnard III (1886-1948) and Porter Mary Amis Kinnard (1884-1951) purchased the property with their son, C.H. IV. C.H. III was the son of the Kinnards of Fairview.

By 1924, C.H. III famously built Willow Plunge at Lewisburg Pike and Carnton Lane. It was the largest outdoor concrete swimming pool in the South. It held 750,000 gallons of water - 100,000 more than an Olympic pool. In 1932, it was named one of the best pools in the United States. Other activities included tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, football field, aviation field, and a lake. In 1967, Willow Plunge was closed because costly repairs were needed and the land sold. The area is now part of Heath Place subdivision.

Col. Claiborne “Clay” Holmes Kinnard IV (1912-1966) and Ruth McDowell Kinnard (1919-2001) were the next owners although they did not reside at the property much. They wed in 1943, and the couple moved to Europe in 1944. Col. Kinnard lived most of his life at Air Force bases and had a highly decorated term of service during World War II. He shot down enough enemy aircraft to become an ACE and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Croix-de Guerre with Palms.

After Col. Kinnard’s service, he returned to Franklin, and in 1946, his father sold him Windermere and properties including Willow Plunge for $1.00. C.H. IV and Ruth began making extensive remodeling efforts to the home. He even changed the name of Windermere to “Martlesham Heath” in honor of the British airbase where he served. He prospered in the post-war years through owning a company that made pre-stressed concrete and he soon merged with other Nashville companies

After Col. Kinnard died, Ruth closed Willow Plunge in 1966. Ruth earned a law degree in 1970, and in 1972, became one of the first female federal district judges. She served as a Bankruptcy judge until 1978. In the late 1970s, Ruth began to sell off portions of the Windermere property for development. By 1983, streets had been developed, a new country club built and the new subdivision was called Heath Place, referencing a British airbase where her husband had lived. In that year as well, Ruth sold Windermere and its remaining 40 acres to Davis Carr and his family.

Davis was an attorney at Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry and was managing partner in 1984. Davis and Martha Carr began to add to the home in their own way and modernize the property.

In 2007, John Roderick “Rod” Heller and Kay Culbreath Heller purchased Windermere and its remaining 40 acres. He has deep ties to Nashville and Franklin areas. Rod is a great great grandson of Carrie McGavock. The Hellers have been prominent historic conservationists and helped save 112 acres of the Battle of Franklin’s Eastern Flank. In 2011, they arranged a conservation easement on Windermere and its current 40 acres for protection. Heller is a businessman with interests in Washington, DC and Franklin. He is Chairman and CEO of Harpeth Associates LLC and developing several projects in the Franklin area. He is a Founding Chairman for the Civil War Trust and also the author of Democracy’s Lawyer: Felix Grundy of the Old Southwest. Kay has been involved with many philanthropic projects including the Nashville Ballet, the Heritage Foundation in Franklin, the Florida Orchestra, the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, DC and the Kay and Roderick Heller Collection at the Tampa Museum of Art. The current address is 1344 Carnton Lane.

Windermere appears to come from old Scottish Gaelic “mere” meaning lake or loch and Winder is a family name. The property was not called that until after the matriarch Carrie W. died in 1905. See Fairview, Carnton


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