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Relic Restoration

Preservation group to restore a Midtown trolley landmark.

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Midtown's East End trolley stand has long been left to the elements, and today it appears tagged with graffiti and nearly swallowed by overgrown vegetation.

But the historic structure may soon see new life. Preservation Memphis has set its sights on restoring the trolley stop on the south side of Poplar across from Overton Park.

"Historically, it was a trolley turnaround [built in the early 1900s]," said Alex Turley, co-founder of Preservation Memphis. "But if you look at it in its current state, it's become a place for people who sit, drink beer, and probably sleep. The trash around it is insane, and a good portion of that ends up in Lick Creek."

A relatively new organization, Preservation Memphis aims to take on "manageable, small restoration projects" for $15,000 or less. They typically focus on neglected or dilapidated historic structures, according to Turley.

The group plans to transplant the East End trolley stand across the street from its current location near the Belleair neighborhood. The stand will sit on the edge of Overton Park where it will serve as a functioning bus stop.

"You can't really see it when you're driving down Poplar because it's buried in shrubbery," said Kenny Jabbour, another of Preservation Memphis' founders. "It's just one of those relics left behind. It's completely untouched, and someone needed to take charge and restore it."

Turley and Jabbour estimate that restoration of the trolley stand should be fairly easy and will involve a paint job, replacing rotting wood in the frame, and giving the structure a new cedar shingle roof.

"Things built back then were built rather well," Jabbour said. "There's some rotten wood on the back of [the trolley stop]. Other than that, it's in pretty solid shape."

As announced last week, Preservation Memphis is still in the fund-raising phase of the project. Jabbour estimates that at least $6,000 will be needed to complete the restoration process, which should begin in as little as two weeks. Once work begins, Turley says restoration will only take a couple of days.

The project has the support of the city's Park Services department, Memphis Area Transit Authority, the Memphis Landmarks Commission, Memphis Heritage, the Overton Park golf course, and local historian John Dulaney.

The East End trolley stand will be Preservation Memphis' second project. Earlier this year, they restored the pavilion in Midtown's Peabody Park.

"Everyone's been very pleased with the way it turned out," Jabbour said. "It was in bad shape, and it shines now. Once it gets warmer, we're going to host a concert or a block party there."

"People are letting their kids play on it now," added Turley, who believes that their work inspires others to take action. "The city has really stepped up now, and Peabody Park looks great. It's like everyone has taken notice."

Preservation Memphis is seeking donations to fund the restoration of the trolley stand. Donations can be mailed to Kenny Jabbour, 65 Union Ave. (Mezz. Floor), Memphis, TN 38103.

Said Turley: "If we get more money than we need, we'll apply those surplus funds to the next project."

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