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A Survivor

Circa 1875 Lenox Family home.



The 1870s weren't a great decade for Memphis. A series of yellow fever epidemics caused the people who survived to flee the city. By 1879, Memphis was bankrupt and lost its city charter, not to be regained until 1891.

The surrounding countryside was where the action was in this decade. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad made the properties along Southern Avenue desirable. There were numerous stations between Buntyn and downtown served by a local train known as the "Accommodation Line."

The first road through the area now known as Lenox was Cooper Street, running north from the rail line. Just north of the Cooper-Young area, Thomas F. Lenox bought land to farm and built a house for his family in the mid-1870s.

Amazingly, Lenox's gable-and-wing Italianate cottage is still standing. Its original entry hall is 10 feet wide and runs, much like the entry to the Hunt-Phelan House (1828), from the front to the rear porches. This layout and the 13-foot ceilings would exhaust the summer heat. This hall at some stage was considered a waste, maybe when central heat was added, and was divided up with the current kitchen installed in the rear half.

The original public rooms are along the west side of the house. There is a parlor with a spectacular bay window and a separate dining room connected by a finely detailed Gothic archway. The kitchen would probably be better located behind the dining room. A pantry now holds the laundry, but it is big enough to also hold the main bath. That would allow the existing bath on the back porch to be enlarged as a sunroom or breakfast area.

The east side holds two bedrooms, one with an attached bath. This rear bedroom and bath, which has the other bay window in the house, would make the perfect master suite, having already had a whole wall of closets added. The front bedroom would benefit from a similar addition of closets.

The front facade has much of its original architectural detail intact. The front windows are all tall, narrow, and arch-headed. Above the bay, the gable has multiple brackets supporting the roof cornice and a decoratively sawn attic vent. It appears that part of the front porch was enclosed and the original doors, still in place on the rear, were turned to access what was left of the front porch.

Sadly, that means you and guests are not under cover as you enter and don't often get the pleasure of the original doors, with original screen doors, tall transom, and fancy, bracketed head moldings. Restoring this enlarged entry back to the front porch and re-centering the double doors on a reopened hall would recreate the original grandeur in and out.

Let's not pretend there isn't a lot of work needed here, but the original plan and the surviving details all suggest what a fine home this once was and could be again.

2175 Vinton Avenue

Approximately 2,300 square feet

2 bedrooms, 2 baths, $229,000

Realtor: Bob Neal, 685-7772

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