THE BAILLET FAMILY OF TULLAHOMA
The Oldest Building In Tullahoma
The historic Baillet House, which serves as part of the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center, is reportedly the oldest building in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Local folklore holds that part of the structure predates the founding of the city, which occurred in 1852, and this section was used as a hospital during the American Civil War. Tullahoma was occupied by the Confederate Army of Tennessee following the Battle of Stones River in December, 1862 and preceding the Battle of Chickamauga in September, 1863. Later the town was held by the Union Army.
It has been claimed that the Baillet family, originally from Farmersville, New York, built an Italianate home on the site in 1968 using bricks from the Lupher brickyard. The house, located at 401 South Jackson Street, sits across from land that the Tullahoma founders had originally planned as the town's square. But when the railroad depot was placed several blocks north of the area, the town's center moved with it.
However, newly discovered information shows that if the home's bricks really came from the Lupher brickyard, the home could not have been built in 1868. The earliest the home could have been built with Lupher bricks was 1869.
Some of the information suggests that perhaps the father, Felix Baillet, was involved in some way with brick-making. Documents do show that the land was purchased by the Baillet family in 1868. And accounts contemporary with the Baillets, record Felix Baillet as moving to Tullahoma from Limestone, New York. Although the reports and other documentation confirm that Felix Baillet had farmed for years in Farmersville, where all of his children had been born.
PHOTOS: (top) The Baillet home as it looks today. (middle) Restoration of the Baillet home in 1967. (above) South Jackson School circa. 1900. Located across from the Baillet House. The school was converted into the South Jackson Civic Center in 1977.
Three of Felix Baillet's daughters owned and operated a millinery shop in downtown Tullahoma, from 1870 until 1913. The store was located upstairs in a building on the corner of Atlantic Street and West Lincoln Street.
The 1910 Census lists Jane and Emma Baillet as dressmakers. At that time, four Baillets still resided at the home. Napoleon “Pole” was listed as the head of the household, which included his sisters Jane, Emma and Affa.
The 1930 Census lists Affa as the last remaining Baillet in the home. Elizabeth Wooden, age 74, was listed as a renter. Affa died in 1934 at the age of 84.
During World War II, when Tullahoma's population skyrocketed over night, the house was converted into apartments. Among their many interests and activities, the Baillet sisters also shared a love of the arts.
Almost a century after the Baillet home rose on the south side of the city, it was restored by volunteers interested in preserving Tullahoma's history and the Baillet sisters' art legacy.