Thursday, September 6, 2012

Central Gardens Home Tour 2012

1962 Peabody Avenue, Memphis, as it appears today.
It was built in 1909 for "Boss"  Crump.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
On Sunday afternoon, September 9, 2012, there will be the 36th annual home tour in the Memphis neighborhood known as Central Gardens.  This year's tour, my fifth for writing the guidebook with the assistance of historian Marsha Hayes, will be unique in that it is a centennial celebration of sorts.  All six houses on the tour are pictured in the 1912 publication ART WORK OF MEMPHIS.  During the tour, there will be an exhibit of the photos of all 41 of the neighborhood houses featured in the book.
1346 Central Avenue, Memphis.
The present clubhouse of The University Club was built from a house also featured in the 1912 book, but later severely damaged by fire.  The charming Arts & Crafts house was once owned by one of Memphis' most colorful citizens, Clarence Saunders, creator of the first self-service supermarket, the Piggly Wiggly.  Later remodelling obliterated the appearance of an English country house except for the added 1934 ballroom where the photo exhibit will be held.  (A later Saunders home, further east, is now known as the Pink Palace, the Memphis Museum;  part of the estate was developed to become Memphis Country Club).
1962 Peabody Avenue, Memphs.
An even more colorful Memphis character was E.H. Crump.  Known as "Boss" Crump, he essentially ran all aspects of Memphis government for the first half of the twentieth century.  His house, dating from his first term as Mayor, is notable for its nods towards classic civic architecture.  The architects were Neander Montgomery Woods and George Mahan, Jr, who became partner of Montgomery Woods' half brother, Everett Woods.
1542 Harbert Avenue, Memphis.
Another Montgomery Woods designed house is in the Arts & Crafts style for which the architect is so admired.  Notably, the house is an early example of an adaptation to the Automobile Age, near the ground with the front door facing the driveway under the "carport" (as it would later be known).  Also of note are the art glass windows, probably from Chicago.
1559 Vinton Avenue, Memphis.
Montgomery Woods most likely was the architect of this house as well, but the records have not yet been found.  In addition to the Arts & Crafts features so often used in Woods' projects, there are Art Nouveau florishes in the pair of newel post lamps that grace the staircase.
1649 Central Avenue, Memphis.
The colossal order portico reminds people of the Old South, but it is, in fact, a feature of the Neoclassical Revival style so popular at the time.  Most of the other details are Colonial Revival, however.
1449 Harbert Avenue, Memphis.
Constructed of an usual dark, mottled brick with charcoal-colored mortar to give a solid visual base to the upper story of textured stucco, this residence is a deluxe verson of the many houses that are a combination of influences of both the Arts & Crafts and Prairie styles that make up the majority of the neighborhood.
267 South Belvedere Boulevard, Memphis.
The sixth house on tour is located on what many consider the city's most beautiful street.  Fittingly, it was built for the boulevard's developer, setting a standard for the houses to follow.  The exterior shows the influence of Arts & Crafts, Prairie and Mission styles, so the grand, carved oak, Baroque Revival staircase comes as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one.

A collection of books on topics relevant to those who own and/or appreciate houses such as these are available at a substantially discounted price from The Devoted Classicist Library.

More information about the 2012 tour may be found at the The Central Gardens Association website.

N. Montgomery Woods moved to the New York City area after a successful career in Memphis, and became a nationally known architect, selling plans for thousands of houses built across the country.  But little is available in Memphis records beyond that.  If anyone knowns more about Mr. Woods, I hope they will contact me.


  1. Hello John:
    We have found this post both absorbing and informative for the way in which you have detailed the background to this series of very amazing, and architecturally most interesting, group of houses. And at this year's open day, an added pleasure will be the photographic exhibition from which, we assume, the images you have included here are taken. We wish that it were possible to see it all for ourselves.

  2. Yes, Jane and Lance, all the photos except the first are from the 1912 book. Although there has been a preview exhibition of the vintage photos for promotion, the whole tour event will last only from 1 to 6 this Sunday, September 9, 2012.

  3. John,
    Congratulations on another scholarly post, and another volume for the CG tour. If anyone can do it, it's you. I would love to visit Memphis sometime, it's a city that has always intrigued me.


    1. Dean, Memphis always has something to offer. If not Graceland, there's always a quest for BBQ.

  4. Knowing next to nothing about residential architecture in Memphis, this
    post was a revelation to me~to say nothing of the custom of having a house
    and garden tour in the month of September!

    1. Toby, the gardens are pretty much spent, as you might imagine, especially after the drought and heat of this summer. But the second Sunday of September was chosen years ago for the date of the annual tour; according to the almanac, it has seldom rained on that day. The forecast for this year promises to be a glorious day.

  5. Such an amazing house! I just love it. Thanks for posting some pictures.


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