The 1920s in Memphis were a time of economic expansion. All of Midtown was enjoying a building boom. Rhodes College had just relocated to Memphis and was building its new campus, and Hein Park was going up right beside it.
The increase in urban density was derided by some as unhealthy. Tuberculosis was on the rise and publications extolled the virtues of fresh air.
Rear latticed porches were commonly used as summer kitchens in an attempt to escape the heat. The large two-story houses of the early 20th century often had another porch above, to be used by the whole family as summer sleeping quarters. An outdoor place to sleep not only helped beat the heat, but the night air was considered to be freer from dust and other impurities.
This bungalow from the early 1920s went yet a step further in the fresh-air craze: The two-story house was built around a swimming pool placed in the center of the second floor, with 10-foot ceilings to help evacuate heat and nearly 15-foot ceilings in the pool area. Clerestory windows, three feet tall, filled all four sides of this elevated space over the pool, making the whole central room a "lantern" that lit the center of the house.
Fireplaces throughout the house — not just in the living and dining rooms, as you might expect, but also in the central pool room and the front screened porch, now glassed in — allowed residents to enjoy the benefits of fresh air even though it might be a tad nippy out.
The pool has long been filled in. The central room now has narrow oak floors just like the rest of the main floor. This central space feels like an industrial loft, giving it renewed appeal for contemporary living.
The perimeter rooms include a small living room, a separate dining room, a spacious kitchen with breakfast area, and four bedrooms.
Though now inhabited comfortably, the whole space would benefit from a thorough renovation in and out. The interior moldings, diamond-paned windows, and oak floors give it a lot of appeal. There is also a lower floor that is not as large as the main floor because the abandoned pool fills the center.
In these days of rising utility costs, it is impressive to see a still-working example of how passive design can ventilate and cool a house. Healthy living is always in style.
Approximately 4,000 square feet
4 bedrooms, 3 baths; $359,000
Realtor: Marx and Bensdorf, 682-1868
Agent: Melody Bourell, 461-4016