From Our House to YOURS: The Howarth House

Oct 13, 2021 at 01:46 pm by RMGadmin

By Anna Robertson Ham

Franklin's Most "Active" Haunted House

The Howarth House, also known as Cherry Manor, sits at the corner of 3rd Avenue North and Bridge Street in historic downtown Franklin. Many have been made aware of the house’s history and haunts, but we were made more aware of the home’s spooky reputation by Franklin Walking Tour’s owner Alicia King Marshal. During a recent interview with Alicia, she was asked what she considers the most “active” location on her tour. She said, “People have long said that Cherry Manor, on 3rd Avenue North, is the most active building in Franklin…possibly all of Tennessee. After going there thousands of times over the years, I would have to agree. It’s the only negative or dark haunting on any of my routes, and it definitely affects some people physically. While it draws many visitors here, I actually wish it wasn’t so well known because I don’t enjoy being close to the building every night. I stay off the porch and go to the next spot as soon as possible to wait for my guests when they’re ready to move on. The photos people have taken there are chilling, and (after checking them for any signs of tampering), I share them on my tours.”

So, naturally, after hearing this response from Alicia, I had to investigate more. Being a lover of all things spooky, I was completely intrigued with this statement about a house that sits just down the street from my office. I reached out to the house owner, Dori Howarth, to get more information and tour the home. Dori’s parents bought the house in 2003 while looking for a great location for an office for their company, The Howarth Group, Inc. Dori says that the house was named Cherry Manor because it used to have cherry trees along the front and along the Bridge Street side of the house. “Unfortunately, these were removed and replaced with another type of tree when the downtown sidewalk renovations took place,” Dori explains. “They say it was built in 1820, but I’d guess it was built before then as that is only the date of the first known records for this property. From what I know, it has been many things over the years… We have the flag for a hospital during the Civil War, from the historic commission, to hang at times. It’s been a nursing home, and it was used as classrooms when a local college had a fire.” 

“We have not altered the home in the transition as it works very well with individual offices in the bedrooms, conference room in the dining room, and it is great to have a full kitchen available,” says Dori. “There are two sections at the rear of the house that are additions, but I’m not sure when those were made. Otherwise, from what I know, the majority of the actual structure is original. There is no wood framing underneath the brick, and it is not veneer but a solid masonry wall. The wood flooring upstairs is original. The wood floors downstairs were replaced shortly after the Civil War as, we are told, invading soldiers rode their horses around inside and ruined the original floors.”

Dori says that the first thing she fell in love with about the home was the garden in the back courtyard. ‘It has some great charm and whimsy to it. I love the house’s history and how they constructed things back then with the very short doorways and very tall ceilings. My office is upstairs and in my door frame is a bullet hole from the Civil War.  We have names etched in the window panes of a downstairs window that, from what I understand, were the students taught here. It’s just incredible to see these things that happened so long ago but are still a part of the house. If this house could talk, there is so much amazing history that it has experienced.”

When I asked Dori about how she felt about the house’s reputation of being haunted, she says she gets a kick out of it but that’s easy to say, having owned it since 2003 and she is there so often. “I’ve heard there are haunted tour guides that won’t stop at this house or come on the front porch,” she says. “I’ve heard there are people who will not even park their car in front of it. It wasn’t until recently that I even knew we were apparently the most haunted house in Williamson County, so we’ll see how I do this winter when it starts getting dark at 4:30pm. I’ll be leaving early those days. Still, I honestly haven’t been here after dark very often, and I am sure to have a light on in every room as I walk through the carport because it can feel so haunting. I don’t know if I could ever actually live in it either.”

Dori says she believes the home is haunted by what she and others have experienced. “I’ve known enough sane people who have worked for us or had office space here that have had their own stories to share. I can’t say I have personally experienced anything other than books being knocked over on my bookshelf occasionally throughout the years. I am familiar with our ghost Margaret ‘Peggy’ Eaton, who had quite the reputation back then of being a hussy and a little too outspoken for her time. She was a model on a cigarette carton, so I like to joke and say we’d probably be friends if she was alive today.”

Dori says she has heard many stories from many people about the home and Peggy, who is said to roam 3rd Avenue North. The Shorts owned and lived in the house before the Howarths bought it, and owner Jim Short was said to have woken up in the middle of the night by a feeling of a blast of cold air and saw a misty image above him that appeared to be a woman. He jumped out of bed, bolted down the stairs and out of the house into the street. This was said to have been Peggy. His children were said to have seen Peggy standing at the top of the staircase. “She is rumored to usually only appear to men and mainly stay upstairs,” explains Dori. “An old partner with the company, who at the time his office was downstairs, said there were times when he stayed at the office late and his chandelier would rattle like someone was walking across the floor in the room above him...but everyone was gone.”

An employee with RyMed Technologies, renting office space in the home, had a view of the bottom of the stairs from his desk and told Dori that he saw a man dressed in military clothes walk around and head up the stairs. “Music has been a thing here with the ghost (or ghosts). Twice at two completely different times, music playing in a room with no one in it cranked up really loud on its own. The ladies(or ghosts). Twice at two completely different times, music that was playing in a room with no one in it cranked up really loud on its own. The first time the ladies just laughed at Peggy and turned it down with the knob on the stereo. This was before remotes were a thing. The second time she turned it down herself,” says Dori.

I got to tour the home myself, and Dori showed me the old stained glass doors that used to be placed in the entryway but are now stored in an attic space, which used to be the servants’ quarters. These quarters are still intact, with the stairwell and doorway leading from the kitchen’s interior up to the small room. She also showed me the hooks above the kitchen doorway, where several decorative plates once hung but continued to be found broken on the floor several mornings. They said that it must have been Peggy that did not like them and just took them all down. She also mentioned that an older woman is said to haunt the home as well, and the before-mentioned soldier’s haunting. This was brought to their attention when a man was on a tour and peered through the front porch window to see an older woman inside (a then empty home) and yell for him to get off her porch. There have also been several photos taken of the home showing an apparition in the window, second from the right of the home’s second story. There are many more stories and experiences. 

Now, I know many do not believe in ghosts or hauntings. I completely understand and appreciate that mindset. However, I am NOT one of those people. I believe in ghosts. I believe in hauntings. And I do believe that the Howarth House is haunted, especially after the feelings I got visiting the home. When I first stepped onto the porch steps, I felt a heavy feeling. While standing in the front room, the little hairs on my arms were standing on end…for no apparent reason. I was not cold, but I could not help myself from crossing my arms due to the chills I was getting. I never felt unwelcome by any force or presence... Just a feeling of a presence being “aware” of new visitors - if that makes sense. Also, a feeling of being watched. Seeing what I did, feeling what I did, and hearing the stories from several people - I genuinely believe that there is a ghost, or a few, that still call Cherry Manor (the Howarth House) home.

“We respect and value this amazing house and will continue to do all we can to preserve and care for this great local, state and national treasure - Cherry Manor,” Dori says. “It’s rich history, and it’s age of over 200 years... It has been through a lot over the years and still stands tall, strong, and hopefully proud. How many conversations have been held on that front porch or walking down the center hallway inside? Fun to sometimes imagine…and reflect on.”