Villa Marre

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Little Rock, Arkansas was booming in 1881, when Angelo and Jennie Marre (pronounced Marie) built an elegant new home on Scott Street, in the middle of one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods.

Even in the midst of all the other fine homes, the Marre house stood out. It featured an interesting combination of both the Italianate and Second Empire styles of architecture. This was a unique combination and made for a extravagant and beautiful house.

With its winding walnut staircase and crystal chandeliers, the Villa served as home to the Marre's for seven years.

In 1905, the house was purchased by Edgar Burton Kinsworthy, following Jennie Marre's death. Kinsworthy and his wife, Mary, occupied the home for 27 years, and they made numerous changes in the house as standards of style and convenience changed during the early 20th century.

During the 1930s the Villa became home to several families, who at different times remodeled it, removing walls and replacing floors. The once-elegant home began a long spiral of decline, having been a nursing home, dance studio, and boarding house.

The house was near ruin in 1964, and set to be razed, when Little Rock businessman James W. Strawn, Jr., stepped in to rescue the home.

An extensive two-year rehabilitation returned the home to a turn-of-the-century appearance. Strawn, however, did not restore it to its original design but chose to leave it as it was after its changes by different owners through the years.

Furnishings dating from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century contributed to the elegant charm of a bygone era. The sewing room has a puzzle-like work of wooden designs in the flooring, and the bathtub has a polished wooden rim and claw feet.

The Villa was donated by Strawn to the Quapaw Quarter Association in 1979. The Association opened the Villa for public tours, parties, receptions, and weddings.

Then, in 1986, the Villa Marre gained notoriety due to the television series Designing Women.

In 2000, as part of the ongoing preservation of the Villa, two active members of the Association, Robin Loucks and Karol Zoeller, created the Designing Women Cookbook, to raise funds for the Villa's restoration.

In 2002, the Villa Marre returned to the private sector, when it was sold to a Little Rock couple and its contents sold at public auction.

It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the MacArthur Park Historic District of the city.

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