From their wide front porch, Ron and Nancy Collins have watched the rhythms of small-town living.

They greet friends passing by to downtown Franklin’s restaurants and shops. They can see parades and community events as they unfold.

“We like to be upfront, because everyone is walking by. We can visit off the porch, and sometimes people come up to talk,” Ron Collins said.

The Collinses’ historic home has provided the perfect home base in the revitalized downtown area. By refurbishing and improving a house that had been built in the 1880s, the couple have helped save a part of Franklin’s history that had been standing on Water Street for more than 130 years.

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The couple moved to Franklin from Anchorage, Alaska. They both hailed from Edinburgh and after retiring decided to move back to their home county.

Foremost on their minds was finding a sturdy historic home to move into.

“I had always wanted an older home. This area has some of the most beautiful architecture. Living in Alaska, you don’t find old houses like that up there,” Nancy Collins said.

Their search took them throughout Johnson County, but in 2007, they moved into a quaint home in downtown Franklin.

The American Foursquare — named so because it contained four boxy rooms per floor — was built in 1880s. The woodwork had not been painted; all the Collinses had to do was clean it when they moved in.

Features such as a wooden built-in cabinet space, which serves as a wet bar and serving area, gave the house a noble atmosphere.

“When you look at as many houses as we did and saw the condition some of them were in, both of us almost wet our pants when we saw this woodwork,” Ron Collins said.

The couple brought some of the Alaskan touches with them to their new home. An intricate circular stained glass piece hangs in the front window. Wilderness-themed decorations are arranged in the living room, back patio and front gardens.

The Collinses have spent considerable time on the exterior of the house, both in the front and the back.

They remade the porch, taking out bad tuckpointing and eventually replacing brick walls going down the steps with wrought iron handrails.

Their “secret garden” hides out back behind a privacy fence, with deck seating and small redbud and maple trees shading a patch of lush grass.

“We’re making a little oasis for ourselves back here,” Nancy Collins said.

At a glance

60 N. Water St.

Owners: Ron and Nancy Collins

Style: American Foursquare

Built: 1880

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.