The Old Prince House has been located at the corner of Oglesby and U.S. 90 (across from the town pond) in Greenville since 1919. Built right after World War I, the gabled and frame structure has weathered the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and boom-bust times in North Florida. There is much history in those bead board ceilings and wood floors.
Soon the Prince House will have a new home site north of Greenville. Slated for demolition to make way for a possible commercial venture, the 2,300 sq. ft. building has been saved for a new life by Nicholas and Rebecca Gonzalez and their children Valentina and Nicholas Jr. The house is being relocated to land owned by Gonzalez's parents, Richard and Lou Miller, just off of SR 221 north.
It is unknown who originally built the structure in 1919, but William Cary and Claudia Edwards Prince were likely the first owners. Newly married, they moved into the home in 1920 and raised five daughters. William was a veteran of WWI and former student of Mercer University in Macon, Ga.; Claudia taught as a teacher.
William joined the family lumber business. His father, John Travis, had come to Greenville from South Carolina in the early 1900s and established the Union Manufacturing Company. He went on to form Prince Lumber & Manufacturing Company in 1927. In its heyday, the Prince mill employed about 200 employees and processed raw lumber, plywood sheets and crates for fruit and vegetables. William, like his father, served on the Greenville town council as mayor. Claudia was active in the Greenville Woman’s Club and instrumental in establishing a lunch program at the elementary school. William and Claudia were devoted members of the Greenville Baptist Church. One family story is that during World War II, William was made chair of the Selective Service committee partly because he was the father of daughters and had no sons.
The Prince girls, Gloria, Marjorie, Patricia (Patty), Mateel (Teel) and Claudia (Cissie), all attended Greenville schools, with each one graduating from Greenville High. Gloria Prince Outler taught elementary school for decades in Gainesville, Marjorie Prince MacKenzie was a graduate dietitian in Alachua County, Mateel Prince Mays traveled the world as a military spouse and Claudia Prince Scruggs and her airline pilot husband settled in Peachtree City, Ga. Patty Prince Marker was secretary and treasurer of Prince Lumber and then an accountant for FSU Athletics; she later returned to Madison County. The surviving Prince sisters, Mateel and Claudia, currently reside in Georgia.
The Prince family has many anecdotes about their original home place. A baby grand piano dominated the living room because all of the girls took piano lessons. There was an added on “sunroom” for sleepovers and a spacious front porch. The family recalls that there were planters on the front steps filled with ferns; several of these ferns were saved and grown by family members since the 1950s. They also remember a ramshackle smokehouse right out the back door. Azaleas and camellias surrounded the house and a magnificent oak dominated the front yard; the oak still stands today.
Some of the house’s features have been lost over the years. For instance, the pocket doors separating the living and dining rooms are long gone. Still, many features have survived, such as the original wood floors, traditional tongue-and-groove bead board ceilings and wainscoting. Original woodwork can be found around the doors, windows and floor moldings. Most of the original door and window hardware throughout the house has survived as well.
After William’s death in 1958, the house went through many owners, including Lynette Sirmons. From time to time it has been vacant; occasionally it has been repaired and renovated. The bones are good, the history is solid and it's exciting that the house will find a bright future with the Gonzalez family.