The Sugarbaker House
The Villa Marre
The striking home used to represent Sugarbaker and Associates Interior Design -- whose fictional address is 1521 Sycamore in Atlanta, Georgia -- is actually listed in the national registry of historical places in the MacArthur Park Historic District of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Little Rock was booming in 1881, when Angelo and Jennie Marre (pronounced Marie) built an elegant new home on Scott Street, then one of the city's most fashionable addresses. Many lovely houses lined the street, but the Marres' new home was especially distinctive because its design combined features of both the Italianate and Second Empire styles of architecture. Perhaps the Italianate style reminded Angelo Marre of his childhood in Italy, where he had been born in 1842.
After moving to Little Rock at the age of 30, Marre prospered during the post-Civil War boom as the owner of a popular saloon. His wealth enabled him to build one of Little Rock's finest Victorian homes, but he did not live long to enjoy it --- he died 1889.
Both lead a scandalous life; Jennie married her uncle James Brizzolara at 17 -- in 1870 moving to Ft. Smith where James (a lawyer/politician) held office as Mayor. She left him and a child after 6 years with speculation being that she met Angelo in Ft. Smith and fell in love. She moved to Little Rock and married Angelo in 1877 in a Catholic ceremony -- minus a divorce from James. She escaped
charges by claiming the marriage to James was not legal because it was not performed in a Catholic Church.
Angelo killed a man in Tennessee during an argument when he was a Memphis police officer in 1865. Later he resigned. He became a saloon keeper and was arrested for possessing stolen goods and sentenced to three years in a Tennessee prison -- serving two before receiving a Governor's pardon, losing his citizenship, and then regaining it after a four year battle.
He then moved to Little Rock on an inheritance he received from a Memphis madame -- "in remembrance for my and his love for each other" according to her will. Again he became a saloon keeper with his brother James.
History of the Villa
With it's winding walnut staircase and crystal chandeliers, the Villa served as home to the Marre's for 7 years. Angelo died in 1889 -- a victim of blood poisoning at the age of 47, while Jennie lived for another 16 years and remarried.
The home on Scott Street remained in the Marre family until 1905, when following Jennie Marre's death, it was purchased by Edgar Burton Kinsworthy, a lawyer who had served as Attorney General of Arkansas. Kinsworthy and his wife, Mary, occupied the home for twenty-seven years. During their long residence, the Kinsworthys made numerous changes in the house, updating it as standards of style and convenience changed during the early 20th century.
After the Kinsworthys left in the early 1930ís, the Villa became home to several families, all of whom have remodeled it at different times -- removing walls and replacing floors. The elegant home began a long period of decline -- having been a nursing home, dance studio, and boarding house.
In 1964, with the house near ruin and set to be bulldozed, Little Rock furniture dealer 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, however, Strawn 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 contribute to the gracious atmosphere of a bygone era. The sewing room has a patch work of wooden designs in the flooring, and the bathtub has a polished wooden rim and claw feet -- a great luxury in the Victorian times.
Strawn donated the Villa to the Quapaw Quarter Association in 1979, which he helped found. The QQA opened the Villa for public tours, as well as for rented parties, receptions and weddings. Every weekend there was some sort of affair scheduled at the Villa.
Then in 1986, the Villa Marre gained world-wide fame as the home of Sugarbaker and Associates Interior Design in Designing Women. Although the QQA had no input into the decision in using the Villa in the series and doesn't know how it was chosen, Producer Harry Thomason's Arkansas roots are considered as one account.
In 2000, as part of the ongoing preservation of the Villa, two active members of the Quapaw Quarter Association, Robin Loucks and Karol Zoeller, created the Designing Women Cookbook to raise funds for the Villa's restoration.
The Villa Marre returned to private ownership in 2002 when it was sold to a Little Rock couple for $355,000 and its contents sold at public auction.
Special Feature Historic by Design by Jonijane Paxton
The Quapaw Quarter Association.
Special thanks to M. C.
Designing Women Online, Designing Women Tribute, Women of the House Magazine
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