Little Rock’s Historic Villa Marre Has Recent Designing Past

Villa MarreIn the Candy’s Media Group family, there’s at least one person with a special place in her heart for the sitcom Designing Women (maybe specifically, Julia Sugarbaker, but that’s neither here nor there). So that one person may have gotten very excited when the historic Villa Marre in Little Rock went on the market.

Why? Because Villa Marre, in addition to being a grand historic mansion, is also the exterior that stood in for the Atlanta mansion the Sugarbakers worked in.

Indeed, a few years ago Southern Living shot a video of the home in part because of its ties to the show.

But before it was the title card for the popular series, Villa Marre was home to Angelo and Jennie Marre, who had the home built in 1881 as a reminder of their Italian heritage. The home was built in about a year, and was valued at $5,000 at the time.

Built after the Second Empire architectural style with Italianate influences, the home’s location at 1321 Scott St. put it in the most fashionable neighborhood (today known as Quapaw Quarter) in Little Rock, which was experiencing a bit of a boom at the time.

Angelo had built his fortune in liquor imports and saloons before he decided to build the elegant and extravagant structure. Sadly, Angelo died in 1889 and Jennie died in 1904, which meant neither got to enjoy their new abode for long.

The home boasts a striking Mansard roof adorned with multi-colored rectangle slates in a fish-scale motif. The front of the house bears the marks of Italianate influences with tall, narrow windows and a tower on the front facade.

Quoins made of concrete stones accent the corners of the house and are common in Second Empire architectural styles.

In the interior, a grand walnut staircase, frescos, and murals on the ceilings, and ornate woodwork give an idea of the luxury Angelo and Jennie planned to live in.

When the Marres died, the house passed through the hands of several different owners and existed as a nursing home, a rental property, a dance studio, and even an Alcoholics Anonymous facility before the city condemned it in 1964.

Furniture company owner James W. Strawn Jr. saved the home from the bulldozers by purchasing the home, and in the next two years embarked on an extensive effort to restore the home. It was Strawn who dubbed the home Villa Marre, in honor of its original owners. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

In 1979, Strawn donated the home to the Quapaw Quarter Association. In 2002, it became a private home again, and in 2012, another family bought the home with an aim of turning it into office space and event space.

Today, the property offers a lot of flexibility. It could be office space and event space still, or it could be a private home. Huge, oversized rooms, two parlors, a generous dining room and large vintage kitchen allow for many scenarios. The property also includes three one-bedroom apartments.

It is listed for $675,000, with Tony Curtis of Tony Curtis Realtors.