ABERDEEN • Since it was built in 1850, Holliday Haven has only been home to two families: the Hollidays, who built it; their descendants; and the Seymers.
Because upkeep on the 5,800-square-foot Greek Revival mansion and its five acres of property is a challenge, the Seymers are ready to downsize and pass it onto the next family.
“We’ve reached that age when we can’t keep it like we want to,” said Emily Seymer.
Her husband, Tom Seymer, purchased the historic home in July 1993 and moved in a few months later after making a few improvements to the home.
“We’ve enjoyed living here and we’re the first family outside of the descendants who have lived here. No one has ever moved out,” he said.
He bought the home from Adeliann Eastham of Starkville, who inherited it after Carolyn Sauter passed away in 1993. Leading up to her death, five generations of the Holliday family lived in the home.
Tom’s former wife, Celetha, who died in 1999, wanted an older home. After 10 years of searching, Holliday Haven was the perfect fit.
When they moved in, the home’s front window panels were painted over with a dark color, and gold shag carpet climbed the staircase.
In the past 26 years, though, the house has been transformed into a showcase for antiques and porcelain, and has provided a social destination for thousands of visitors.
If those walls really could talk
Holliday Haven made national fame in 1999 when it was featured on an episode of HGTV’s show, “If These Walls Could Talk.” The episode was filmed just 13 days before Celetha Seymer’s death.
“We shared about the house, and they really were interested in a trunk upstairs with a lot of old clothes like children’s dresses and vintage gowns,” Tom said.
When asked what the walls of Holliday Haven would say if they could actually talk, Emily Seymer said someone would have to wonder.
Since the Seymers moved in in the early ‘90s, the home has been a part of the Aberdeen Pilgrimage tour most years. While visitors from throughout the United States and overseas have taken the tours and heard a few stories of the home’s history, the couple has offered a more authentic southern society experience to those close to them.
“We’ve had two weddings here. We have 12 or 13 couples when we host our supper club here. We’ve had an opera singer perform before he moved to Germany to sing and numerous engagement parties,” Emily said. “When we had Locke Houston’s engagement party, there were 500 people on the guest list, and we had 300 to come.”
A chef from Italy provided a traditional meal from his home country for couples at a social function in recent years, and Tom said the home hosts 50 to 60 of his family members every Thanksgiving.
“We’ve had a lot of parties here, and it’s a fun house to have parties,” Emily Seymer said.
Additionally, Holliday Haven hosted a retirement party for Aberdeen attorney David Houston in 2013 when he was retiring as a judge from the bench of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
“We had judges from all over the country here, and the U.S. Marshal’s service provided security all around the block,” Tom Seymer said.
Wondering what’s inside
Tom Seymer moved to Aberdeen in 1966, while Emily Seymer grew up in Lackey, graduating from Aberdeen High School.
Growing up, they were both fascinated by the tower house they would one day own.
“We used to come to town on Saturdays for groceries, and I’d ride by and think about how much I’d love to see what the inside of it looked like. I guess my dream came true and I wound up getting to live here,” she said.
Upon walking through the front door of the home, a mural adorns the ceiling of three children in the image of angels. Tom Seymer said he hired artist Ken Pierce to paint it to depict his and his late wife’s three children.
Compliments from visitors throughout the years have included nice things said about porcelain and furniture in the home.
Rooms throughout the home are full with antique furniture, silver, clocks, glassware and dishes, to name a few items. While her favorite collections are porcelain, his include furniture and lamps – 110 lamps to be specific.
“It took 30 years to build this collection,” he said. “Some of the furniture is original to the house.”
Among the most historical pieces in Holliday Haven are the piano in a front parlor and the dining room table. The bill of sale for the table, which was shipped by riverboat from Mobile, Alabama to Aberdeen, dates back to 1858.
A portrait of Tom Holliday, the son of the home’s first owner, John, hangs on the wall of a parlor next to a framed newspaper article about Tom’s death during the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia.
The Seymers have purchased all of the chandeliers in the home.
“Most of the things we have, I can tell you the story behind them,” Emily Seymer said.
Neither Tom nor Emily Seymer were history buffs years ago, but living in Holliday Haven and collecting antiques have provided an education on the subject. Most of their antiques are American-made.
Living in a 170-year-old home, the Seymers have both heard bumps in the night.
“A time or two, I thought I heard someone walking through the house,” he said of unexplained occurrences. “My former son-in-law used to swear he saw a light.”
Emily Seymer recalled a time when a music box turned on by itself.
Holliday Haven has a list price of $599,900. While there have been no offers on the home at this point, the Seymers don’t have a plan for life after living in Holliday Haven.
“It’s not the fact we want to leave. It’s just too much house,” Emily Seymer said. “We don’t have plans after we sell. I guess we’re just waiting if we sell it.”