Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Howry-Hull House, aka Fiddler’s Folly

The intense humidity post-Isaac has left me wanting to stay closer to home these days, so there have been no recent road trips.  I took a few sweaty minutes to wander up the tree-lined North Lamar Historic District Sunday afternoon though, correctly concluding that there would be less traffic and people blocking views.  North Lamar Street is one of the prettiest streets in Oxford, particularly for those enjoying late 19th and early 20th century architecture.  There are a fair amount of Italianate houses on the street as well.

One is the c. 1879 frame, symmetrical center hall townhouse in Italianate style built for local attorney Charles B. Howry (he of Howry Hall fame on the Ole Miss campus).  The house itself is probably not as interesting as Howry, although there are some historic details available here and there.  The Mississippi Department of Archives and History Historic Resources Inventory reported:

…according to local lore, Howry used pre-cut materials shipped by boat and assembled on site (Oxford Walking Tour).

They identify the architect as Alexander Stewart.  The Oxford Walking Tour reported the name of the house as the Howry-Hill-Sultan House, and that Howry commissioned James Stewart in 1875 to design the house.  I find no references to either Hull or Hill, so perhaps someone out there can shed some light on that part of the equation.  John L. Hopkins wrote the 2007 National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the district.  He references local lumber dealer D. I. Sultan in describing the building of the district:

Builders and carpenters would have framed the residence and created the basic stylistic details to create the architectural expression of the completed house to the best of their abilities using hand tools, and then turned to lumber dealers like D. I. Sultan of Oxford to supply prefabricated trim elements, doors, windows and other trim fabricated locally or available by mail order or rail express from millwork companies located in places like Chicago, Milwaukee or Grand Rapids.  (Anonymous ca.1903:203 as cited in Hopkins, 2007)

The Fiddler’s Folly designation came in 1962 when owners dubbed it thus in recognition of their extensive violin collection.  The Historic American Building Survey photographs include an interior shot showcasing one of the violins.

Howry went on to become a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1880-1884.  He received a Recess appointment to Federal judgeship from Grover Cleveland.  A lifelong Democrat and Presbyterian, among his “notable” decisions according to Nancy Capace, 2000, Encylopedia of Mississippi:

Ayres vs. United States and Chickasaw Nation, and the concurring opinion in Lincoln vs. United States, in which the wide extent of his knowledge of the Civil War was evident. (p. 241-242)

The slideshow depicts some of the detail of the house as described by Hopkins:

…bracketed box cornice, cornice gutters, and frieze…windows are double-hung set in segmental arched surrounds…polygonal bay windows on side facades…two-story, two-bay porches supported by paired box piers with scroll sawn capitals raised on stuccoed bases…

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Categories: National Register, Oxford

4 replies

  1. What a beauty! Just from looking at the room with the violin, it is as beautiful inside as out. Lovely details abound. Thank you for letting us see!

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  2. The house reminds me of the homes in Port Gibson along Church Street (Hwy61). Beautiful!

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  3. The walking tour is excellent! The homes are beautiful and their stories bring them to life, so to speak.

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  4. This is an absolutely beautiful home in Oxford, and one preserved from the Civil War with great care and pride. The “Fiddler” was a man named James Elkins! He was a pn avid collector of antique and artisian handcrafted violins from all over the world. He used to hide these violins all over the house for safekeeping, as many were extremely rare! Jim was a true salesman in the music business serving as a regional/national rep for the Ludwig Drum Company from Chicago. His wife Martha, was a bonafide Southen Belle and exquisite host of many dining events in the fabuouls home. “fiddler’s Folly” is a grand tresure for Oxford!

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