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Romantic Refuge

Circa-1840s house in Victorian Village.

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Buildings seldom hang around for 160 years without going through some changes. This one was built as a four-room house in the 1840s. Few of its contemporaries are left today.

The house was one block from the station for the rail line that began the run from town to Buntyn in 1855 and eventually connected Memphis to Charleston. During the Civil War, Confederate munitions were stored on the property, because it was near the depot, and the land is now part of the Arsenal Grounds subdivision.

After the war, General Luke E. Wright built a large dwelling in front of the original house that then was converted into a carriage house. It remained just that way for a hundred years, until urban renewal struck downtown in the 1960s.

In the name of progress, most of Victorian Village was slated for demolition. Fortunately, the great grandson of General Wright, Eldridge Wright, convinced the newly formed Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities to step in.

Eldridge Wright was not able to save his family's house, and it was demolished when Jefferson Avenue was widened. He did salvage the bricks and used them to enclose the carriage house within a 10-foot high wall. In 1974, Eldridge commissioned architect Oscar Menzer to restore the carriage house and to design an addition to it. Tall, cypress French doors were installed on the ground floor below existing arch-headed casement windows on the second floor. The ground floor has wide oak flooring and finely finished plaster walls and ceilings. The drawing room and dining room both have 18th-century mantels above the wood-burning fireplaces. An addition to the west houses a modern galley kitchen and breakfast room. The kitchen was recently updated with new cabinets, honed granite counters, and slate floors. A gated parking court just west of the kitchen is paved with granite cobbles.

The upstairs has the same plan as the ground floor but has heart pine floors. A large master bedroom above the drawing room has one wall of fitted closets with hand-milled cypress doors and trim. A wood-burning fireplace with an wood mantle graces this room.The master bath has travertine floors and a granite-topped vanity. The original cupola's tin roof was replaced with glass to allow natural light in the bath.

The second bedroom, above the dining room, has the fourth wood-burning fireplace. The full bath here has been fitted with a washer and dryer in place of the tub, but that could be reversed if the laundry was moved to the kitchen wing. A second-floor deck is off this bedroom. With its views into the densely landscaped walled garden, it might be one of the most private decks downtown.

The house is stunning, but the high surrounding wall creates a setting that feels like a quiet corner of the French Quarter. You'd be hard-pressed to find a refuge more romantic than this. •

688 Jefferson

Approximately 800 square feet

2 bedrooms, 2 baths; $449,000

Realtor: Sowell and Co, 278-4380

Agent: Scott W. Blake, 277-0223

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