Southern grandeur: Owner of McNeel-Tate home in Cherokee Street Historic District works to preserve its unique charm
by Sally Litchfield
March 23, 2014 12:29 AM | 3074 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Homeowner Jean Van Tuyl Raxter holds a photo of her home, The McNeel House on Cherokee Street in Marietta, from 1911. The home was built as a wedding present to Ada Freyer and Morgan McNeel in 1895. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Homeowner Jean Van Tuyl Raxter holds a photo of her home, The McNeel House on Cherokee Street in Marietta, from 1911. The home was built as a wedding present to Ada Freyer and Morgan McNeel in 1895.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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The music room in the  McNeel House on Cherokee Street in Marietta has a fireplace featuring pink marble from the quarry in Tate. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff</br>
The music room in the McNeel House on Cherokee Street in Marietta has a fireplace featuring pink marble from the quarry in Tate.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
When Jean Van Tuyl Raxter moved into her home, The McNeel House, she found an oak staircase covered in layers of paint, along with orange shag carpet on the Georgia pine floors in the foyer.
When Jean Van Tuyl Raxter moved into her home, The McNeel House, she found an oak staircase covered in layers of paint, along with orange shag carpet on the Georgia pine floors in the foyer.
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The front porch of the historic McNeel House is an inviting place to rest a spell with a tall glass of ice cold tea. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff</br>
The front porch of the historic McNeel House is an inviting place to rest a spell with a tall glass of ice cold tea.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
The pale pink Victorian home at 403 Cherokee Street exudes Southern charm. Located in Marietta’s unique Church-Cherokee Street Historic District, the home is alive with history bearing old Marietta names like McNeel and Tate.

“The preservation of the personality of these old homes is important. You’re a keeper of a house really when you own an old home. We wanted to be that keeper of this house,” said Jean Van Tuyl Raxter, who purchased the home in 1986 with her husband when she was 38 years old.

The retired interior designer raised her two daughters, Tamara and Alyssa, in the home. She has two grandchildren.

“The intent is for it to be that Southern home that you feel the history of it when you walk in,” Van Tuyl Raxter said.

“The layout of the rooms and size attracted us to the home,” said Van Tuyl Raxter, who had considered buying another home on Kennesaw Avenue that had a similar layout. “This home was more move-in ready even though there was a lot to be done.”

The location of the home also appealed to the family.

“I love walking to Square. I love the neighborhood,” she said.

The grandeur of the Victorian home is exemplified by its 11-foot ceilings, wide central hallways, symmetrical floor plan and leaded glass transom windows that filter light in the front rooms.

Beautiful architectural design elements are featured in fireplaces located in the eight main rooms of the home and tell a story about the home’s owners. Marble is showcased in the master bedroom that came from the McNeel Marble Company (formerly located at Sessions Street and Kennesaw Avenue). The music room fireplace features pink marble from Georgia Marble Company in Tate.

After the Van Tuyls purchased the home, they hosted a party celebrating its 100-year anniversary. They invited descendants of the McNeel and Tate families, the only previous owners of the home. During the party, an oral history of the home and family photographs were shared with the Van Tuyls.

Ada Freyer and Morgan L. McNeel were the first owners of the Victorian home. They received the home from Ada’s parents, Professor and Mrs. Ludwig Freyer, as a wedding gift after marrying in December 1895 at her parents’ home, Ivy Grove — one of Marietta’s most famous estates.

Morgan operated the McNeel Marble Company, one of the largest monument and tombstone producers in the country for 100 years. He and Ada raised their five children, Eugene, Frank, Julia, Margaret and Morgan Jr., in the home that originally sat on a dirt street. Ada inherited Ivy Grove, also on Cherokee Street, from her father where she and Morgan made their home in 1914.

The McNeels sold the Victorian home to the widow of Dr. William Tate, “Granny Tate” of Ball Ground, who resided there from 1916 to 1964. Granny Tate raised her five children in the home, including Virginia “Jennie” Tate Anderson who was just 3 years old when her father died and the family moved to Marietta.

Jennie Tate Anderson, wife of James T. Anderson who founded Anderson Chevrolet (formerly located on Roswell Street near Roswell Street Baptist Church), was one of Marietta’s most beloved citizens and philanthropists. Among her many accomplishments, “Miss Jennie” founded the Marietta Educational Garden Center, co-founded Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society and was a celebrated patron of the arts in Cobb County for whom the Jennie T. Anderson Theater at the Cobb Civic Center was named.

After Granny Tate died, Jane and Eugene McNeel, grandson of original owners Ada and Morgan McNeel, purchased the home and raised their five sons there. Eugene McNeel’s family lived in the home from 1964 to 1986.

Over the years, the different owners made changes to the home, such as a kitchen created from a porch and bath, the addition of two small downstairs baths, the removal of a deteriorated barn and the building of a guesthouse in 1981 by Eugene McNeel that was used primarily for the family’s housekeeper.

After the Van Tuyls purchased the home in 1986, they performed extensive renovations to bring the home back to its original condition. They restored the original heart pine floors and woodwork; removed asbestos siding to original wood siding that was stripped and repainted; opened up a sleeping porch on the back of the home to become part of a new kitchen; installed extensive landscape and hardscape such as a concrete drive, patios, streams and pond; and preserved an original rock wall extending to the back of the home.

The 4,600-square-foot home is currently on the market for sale because Van Tuyl Raxter wants to downsize but stay in the area.

“I love the feeling of this solid house. It’s a family home. But when it’s one person, it’s very different than when it’s two people. It’s taken me years to come to this,” Van Tuyl Raxter said.

“Maybe it’s time to pass the home onto someone else. It’s time for another young family to love this home,” Van Tuyl Raxter said.

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