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Big House, Small Town

A renovated Queen Anne on Monroe.

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The East End of Memphis, the area now known as Midtown, was a patchwork of subdivisions that flourished after the East End Street Railway connected downtown with Montgomery Park, an enormously popular public-recreation area built in 1884 on the site that is now the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The East End's suburban "Dummy Line" ran from downtown along Madison Avenue to Cooper Street then east on Young Avenue to the park. In 1887, the new trolley company also opened its own pleasure grounds, East End Park, along the route of the Dummy Line at Tucker and Madison, near the present Overton Square.

Some of the "streetcar suburbs" such as Lenox, Idlewild, and Madison Heights became incorporated towns, surviving until the city annexed the land between North and South parkways from the Mississippi River to Cooper Street in 1897. The area between Cooper and East Parkway, including the Town of Lenox, was annexed in 1909.

The Applewhite subdivision, a 48-lot tract in Lenox, was developed in 1904 by James Applewhite, a Confederate veteran who, in addition to being a real estate speculator, was vice president of the Chickasaw Cooperage Company, a director of the Memphis Stove and Hardware Company, and president of the Idlewild Grocery Company.

At first glance, the neighborhood seems to be all Queen Anne houses, but several Craftsman four-squares punctuate the streetscape of big houses set far back on their lots. This one-and-a-half-story house is an accurate architectural expression of the early 1900s, when the Queen Anne style was beginning to fade and the Craftsman was gaining in popularity. The house has a steep, complex roof typical of Queen Anne houses, but instead of a typical L-plan porch, it has a front porch and a side porte cochere, an element often found on bungalows and other Craftsman forms. The jerkin-head, or clipped-gable, roof, the knee braces at the eaves, and the battered (tapered) porch piers are also Craftsman hallmarks.

The interior is full of delightful surprises. Years ago, the house was "remuddled" into apartments, so some original features were lost and some room configurations changed. A recent renovation has undone many of the ill-considered changes and made pleasant adaptations where the losses were irreversible. The spaces sweep rather dramatically from front to back through a series of broad, cased openings and French doors. Former attic space was opened to create a vaulted ceiling and clerestory window for a front room that could be a grand, baronial dining room or a family room adjoining the kitchen. An exposed-brick chimney separates the two spaces, with a fireplace on one side and a cook stove on the other. The kitchen is outfitted with stainless-steel appliances, but the high-tech look is tempered by wooden cabinetry and artisanal metalwork pot racks and a whimsical chandelier over the center island. An upstairs master suite has a sitting room or office, a bath, a bedroom, and unusually ample closets for a Midtown house. An intricate, seemingly vast front room has all sorts of nooks and crannies carved from attic space and tucked into dormers, and a balcony overlooks the vaulted front room on the first floor.

A tall fence with artfully embellished gates encloses a deep, park-like backyard with mature trees, shady paths, and a fountain. Access from the rear alley opens to a parking area, once the site of a garage; the spot is ready-made for a new garage or garden pavilion. After its thorough but sensitive renovation, this distinctive house is well equipped to provide a comfortable ambience for life in a quiet, historic village setting.

2181 Monroe

2,700 square feet

3 bedrooms, 2 baths

$219,000

Realtor: Crye-Leike Realtors

Agent: Tim Tanner, 276-8800 or 340-7556

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