Stephen F. Austin State University

Magnolia Hall/Old Pierce Home

303 N. Columbus, Marshall

Current Owner 2013: Sarah Zachry

Sanborn Maps:

National Register File

The Magnolia Hall/Old Pierce Home was listed on the National Register in 1973.

TX Historical Marker

The Old Pierce Home/Magnolia Hall became a TX Historical Marker in 1968 and recieved the Texas Restoration Award.

Architectural Survey

Architectural Survey

• Description: The Magnolia Hall is a two-story late, Greek Revival raised cottage made of brick, pine, and hand-cut cypress. It is a square frame structure raised on brick piers, one and one half stories at the front and two full stories in the back where the property slopes down. Through the center of the house is a wide hall with 14-foot ceilings. Unlike many of the East Texas Greek Revival homes, the front door jamb and head have plain facia with un-decorated, square blocks at the upper corner containging no transom or head lights. The basement level is constructed of handmade brick.

• Significance: Outstanding example of mid-nineteenth century Greek revival architecture.

Historical Background

Designed by W.R.D. Ward, the Old Pierce Home was built in 1866 by Colonel John H. Lee as a wedding gift for his daughter, Anna, who married John T. Pierce on January 3, 1867. ("Marriage and Death Notices - The Texas Republican - Marshall, TX, 1849-1869.) Lee was an influential planter of wealth within the community at the time, whereas his soon to be son-in-law was an up and coming lawyer. Before Pierce's practice was firmly established, he taught at a private school located on the same grounds as his home. "Independent Male School…" The undersigned announces to the citizens of Marshall and vicinity that his school will again open for the reception of pupils on Monday, January 6, 1868…"The first session will continue twenty weeks. Pupils will be received at any time and will be charged from the date of entrance to the close of the session. A public examination will, be held on the last Friday in each month." -John T. Pierce (advertisement found in the Harrison Flag, Saturday, January 11, 1968).

John Pierce's son, Jack T. Pierce, followed in his father's footsteps, by becoming a lawyer, and just as his father did, he established his practice within his home. John and Anna's marriage deteriorated and during the divorce there was controversy as to the ownership of Magnolia Hall. John Lee had sold the house to his daughter to provide her with property independent of her husband's control, but Pierce believed it to be his. (A.E. Pierce v. J.T. Pierce and J.H. Lee v. A.H. cooper, Administrator. Deed records of Marion County, Cases 3623, 3627, and 3635. Probate Records of Harrison County, Files 2019-A and P-A). Things were never officially finalized due to the sudden death of John Pierce as a result of a heart attack at age forty-eight. The family allowed the funeral to be held at Magnolia Hall, but did not allow his body to be buried in the family lot in the Old Marshall Cemetery, and the home remained as property of Anna Pierce. Mrs. Pierce occupied Magnolia Hall until her death in 1926, at which time her children, Hope and John, inherited the house and land. (Harrison County Probate Records, File 2019-A and P-4: "Affidavit of Executor, Administrator of Heir for Inheritance Tax Appraisement.") Jack resided in the home alone as a bachelor until his death in 1938.

Due to his reclusive and eccentric behavior, his body was not discovered until two days after he had passed away in his bed. (Marshall News Messenger, September 11, 1938) The house was then left to his sister Hope Pierce Tartt, the last descendent to own Magnolia Hall. She remained in Houston, so the house was left abandoned until her death in 1961. Unfortunately, at the time of her death, two wills were discovered, one which had been completed in 1938, and another one completed in 1947, which was found after her death. (Hope Pierce Tartt's will, written in July, 1947. Harrison County Historical Archives). This caused both to become invalid and resulted in a probate battle over her estate and property holdings. The court spent seventeen years searching for any blood relatives but since she was the last of her family their attempts were in vain, except for the two thousand people who attempted to lay claim to her six million dollar fortune. In 1978, the Supreme Court of Texas finally reversed the decision and ruled that Mrs. Tartt's 1947 will was valid, which stated that $400,000 dollars was to go towards scholarship grants for private universities and Magnolia Hall was to be donated to the First Methodist Church. (Interview conducted by Carol Morris Little of Tommy Jackson, trust officer at Marshall National Bank, April 21, 1983.) Therefore, First Methodist Church came into possession of the house in 1961, where it continued to remain in a state of disrepair until the church sold it at an auction in 1966 to Eunice and Emory Elder. (Harrison County Deed Records, Vol. 630, Pg. 113, filed July 26, 1966)

After twenty-six years of vacancy, the home was finally restored its former elegance thanks to the Elders. Restoration was a long and tedious process though because nothing had been changed since the death of Mrs. Pierce. According to oral accounts, Jack had not wanted anything removed after his mother's death, wishing to leave the home as a shrine to her memory. So after forty years the Elders discovered sheets still on the bed, a roast in the oven, ashes in the fireplace, piles of party invitations, letters, and newspaper clippings thrown about, an extensive library of literary classics and volumes on law, religion, and philosophy, keys to the six locks found on every door, as well as piles of rubble, rodents, and birds. (Oral accounts from Eunice Elder documented within the Harrison County Museum Archives).

No major alterations were required, except for the name; the Elder's named their newly renovated home 'Magnolia Hall' due to the large magnolia trees that stood in the front lawn. In 2000 Karen R. Alcock purchased the home to open up a coffee shop. (Harrison County Deed Records, Vol. 2106, Pg. 323, filed June 22, 2000). A few years later Magnolia Hall was once again abandoned until 2005 when Rudy and Rachel Zachery, a father and daughter purchased the house. (Harrison County Deed Records, Vol. 3243, Pg. 165, filed December 12, 2005) Yet again the house went under serious renovations, this time acquiring many additions to accommodate the bar and restaurant that the Zachery's call 'Charlie's Backyard.' The original part of the house received only a face lift and is used for wedding parties and social gatherings. Additions were built onto the back of the house overlooking an open patio area that contains a stage for live music. Once a relic of the past, the Zachery's have transformed this historical location into a charming business that brings people in from all over East Texas, while still preserving the historical structure for posterity.

Magnolia Hall/Pierce Home/Charlie's Backyard Photos