No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing
When Searcy Denney decided to establish a permanent presence in North Florida, we looked for a location that would illustrate our commitment. We wanted a building that had a solid history and a location that demonstrated our dedication. We found the Towle House; some call it the Towle – Yancey House. Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley now calls it home.
This historic building lies on Tallahassee’s Calhoun Street; lined by majestic old live oaks covered in Spanish moss. It is the office of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley and the building’s history is important to our firm because our roots lie deep within Florida.
Simon Towle was a successful Tallahassee attorney when, in 1846 or 1847, he built the Towle House on land he had purchased for $220.
Mr. Towle, a prominent member of the influential Whig Party, served as Mayor of Tallahassee in 1846 and served as the State of Florida Comptroller from 1847 – 1851. Simon Towle left Tallahassee in the late 1850’s and moved to Michigan where he practiced law. He subsequently moved to Hartford CT and then to Washington DC. Simon Towle came to Tallahassee with his uncle, Frederick Towle. Frederick Towle, a silver smith, opened a jewelry store and apparently prospered in the Tallahassee area.
The great storm of 1851 left the newly constructed Towle house largely undamaged. Reports indicate that although many other buildings sustained significant damage, Simon Towle’s house suffered only the “gable end smashed in.”
In 1854, a wealthy plantation owner, Richard Whitaker, purchased the Towle House from Simon and, his second wife, Harriet Towle. Richard Whitaker was the owner of a plantation whose acreage now comprises a part of the Walaunee Plantation east of Centerville Road and a part of Killearn Estates to the west. Although Richard Whitaker died only a couple of years after the purchase, the Whitaker family occupied the residence, by one ancestor or another, until the family sold it in 1906.
It was the Whitaker family who added the second story and the columned porch to the Towle House. The addition was put on by a local carpenter, Joseph A Edmundson, who engaged in building and served as a County Commissioner.
The Towle house was purchased from Martha Whitaker by Sallie E Blake in 1906. Prior to her purchase of the Towle House, Ms. Blake was the proprietor of Miss Blake’s Sanitarium, located just north of the Leon Hotel. Sallie Blake was an author who wrote the book, Tallahassee of Yesterday, published in 1924. Ms. Blake was a founding member and past president of the Anna Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as well as being a member of the Tallahassee Women’s Club. Sallie Blake also held the position of, first, nurse, and then “Lady Principal” at Florida State University for Women (now Florida State University). It was said that Ms. Blake often held parties at the Towle House; bringing in enormous quantities of flowers to fill the house and grounds. Ms. Blake was apparently close friends of Governor WD Bloxham and travelled with the governor and many mutual friends.
In 1922, Sallie Blake sold the Towle House to Mary E. Brewer and in 1942; the house was sold to the City Manager of Tallahassee, Malcolm Yancey and his wife, Anne Mae Mitchell Yancey. Mr. Yancey was an engineer and a well known military veteran of WW I. One of the Yancey’s sons, one of ten children, was pro golfer, Bert Yancey. Mr. Yancey continued as City Manager of Tallahassee until his resignation on February 7, 1952.
In 1968, Lucille Givhan purchased the Towle House and performed extensive restoration of the property.
It was in 1976 that the Democratic Party of Florida purchased the property to use for their Tallahassee headquarters.
The law firm of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley purchased the Towle House in 2002 and performed extensive structural and cosmetic restoration to the house and grounds. It was our goal to return the house back to the condition, which would have made Simon Towle and Richard Whitaker proud. We think we have successfully accomplished such a restoration.
The offices of attorneys William Norton and James Gustafson, paralegals, and support staff now occupy the first and second floor areas.