Heirs of historic Terry House sue city, Museum of Arts for ownership of mansion

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After nearly a decade of apparent disuse, the heirs of the latest owners of the historic Terry House in downtown Little Rock have filed a lawsuit to return the property to the family. 

The mansion was built in the 1840s and was gifted to the city and the Museum of Fine Arts in 1964 by its last private owner. It’s one of the only remaining antebellum houses in the city of Little Rock, and according to experts, one of the best-preserved examples of Greek revival architecture in the state. 

The lawsuit was filed by the descendants of Adolphine Fletcher Terry and Mary Fletcher Drennan against the City of Little Rock and the Museum of Fine Arts. It claims the mansion hasn’t been properly taken care of and isn’t being used for its intended purpose as a public space for the cultural, artistic, and educational uses of Little Rock’s citizens. 

The plaintiffs are asking that the home be reverted to the heirs and that they receive the required amount of funding to restore the home, an estimated amount of more than $1,000,000.  In addition, they want a $1.5 million endowment set aside for the home investigated to see if those funds all went to the sole use of the mansion. 

MacArthur park neighbor Stephen Franklin knows the beauty of the Terry Mansion firsthand. He lives right across the street and can see the entrance from his kitchen window. 

“It is so nice to walk on that property and think, gosh, how many people have stood here in awe of this place?” Franklin recalled. 

Over the past year, he’s watched as the home slowly decayed, with cracks appearing in walls, ivy overtaking the exterior, and even the chimney on the verge of collapse. 

“It’s just heartbreaking,” he said. “To let it rot is an insult to our community.”

Franklin believes that reverting it back to the family would be what’s best and wonders why the city hasn’t sold the property previously to a passionate buyer intent on restoration. 

Patricia Blick’s main concern is preserving the site’s history. As executive director of the Quapaw Quarter Association, she’s watched historic homes disappear before; the last thing she wants for the Terry House. 

“First and foremost, we want this building preserved,” Blick said. “We want the site preserved. While it’s unfortunate that they had to take it to court to reach some sort of resolution, I think that it was almost inevitable.”

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