Holley–Williams House – History Continued

Holley-Williams House

The earliest part of the Holley-Williams House was built in 1768 for the Salisbury Furnace ironmaster. The larger Classic Revival section was added in 1808 by John Milton Holley, Margaret Holley Williams’ great-grandfather. The house is an exceptionally fine example of a 19th Century Federal-style residence.


Using original source materials discovered among the Holley-Williams House collections, living tours were developed to represent the life and times of Maria Holley Williams in 1876. Costumed docents gave tours. Exhibits were set up in the ice house, the seven-hole outhouse, and on the property. An 1842 era demonstration garden was installed that included local medicinal plants, a children’s maze, and a visitor center. The home and gardens provided the setting for numerous Association programs and events.

In 1994 a children’s Cannon Museum of American Revolutionary History was opened in the carriage house. A full time professional Education Director was hired, and the Holley House Center for Women was also established in the early 1990s. An authentic 1870s kitchen was set up. Interpretive programs on 19th Century nutrition and home health care, with emphasis on the roles of women, were developed. Private funds were raised and grants awarded to help finance the work.

Historic Features Protected

Prior to placing the house for sale, the Association protected its historically significant features. A stewardship plan was developed with Historic New England (HNE) under which certain historic features of the Holley-Williams House would be protected in perpetuity. The agreement calls for regular inspections by HNE to ensure terms are observed. Any future buyer would have to agree to observe the restrictions on the property in advance of a sale.

Holley-Williams House is Sold, 2010

Prior to the sale, a professional curator was hired to make a complete survey of the Holley- Williams House inventory and collections. Katherine Chilcoat, former Town Historian and current Association curator, worked closely with the curator to document the several thousands of articles in the museum and help plan the disposition of each. Items of importance to Salisbury's history were retained by the Association, and those without local significance were put up for auction. Some of the artifacts are among the collections at the Academy Building; others are kept in the History Room at the Scoville Memorial Library or in storage facilities.

In 2010, the Holley-Williams House was sold for $500,000. Proceeds from the house and the sale of some of its contents fund Historical Society projects, such as the restoration of seventeen 19th Century portraits from the Holley- Williams House. Many are on display in the Academy Building.