When Robert M. Carrier moved his family from New York to Memphis in 1926, he sent his architect, Bryant Fleming, on a buying trip to England to gather elements for the house he was building here. Fleming had worked with W. J. Dodd, who designed the Hunter Raine house in 1904, just around the corner on Central. He also designed Cheekwood, built in Nashville in the early 1930s. It wasn't a pewter tankard or two, nor even Wedgwood service for 24 that he had in mind.
Early Tudor mantels ornamented with mythical beasts, rooms of fine wood paneling, and a museum-worthy collection of paintings on glass to be incorporated in the leaded casement windows are part of what Fleming acquired on his grand tour. The resulting house feels like it could have been built during the late 16th or early 17th century in East Anglia.
Fleming was an accomplished landscape architect, and he designed the site to provide a stunning milieu for the house, siting it on the mid-level of a three-tiered plot with its main entrance on the rear, off a central garden court. The street front has a magnificent brick and stone balustraded terrace looking west over a sunken lawn.
The interior details are as sumptuous as you could imagine and then some. The entry and living room are floored in a checkerboard of antique marble and slate. The ceilings are beamed with antique timbers. The formal rooms have plaster ceilings with ornate strapwork and decorative pendants. The great hall, library, and sitting rooms have walls of hand-carved paneling. These include full-relief figures and bas-relief masks on the over-mantels. Every surface is rich with historical detail.
The kitchen is a spacious room with recently redone glazed cabinetry. Granite tops, tumbled marble backsplashes, and a limestone floor with inset slate diamonds equal the quality of the original materials in other parts of the house. The kitchen is large enough to hold a comfortable seating area; a separate breakfast room and dining porch overlook the entry garden court.
The detailing isn't spared upstairs, with the same eight- and 10-inch-wide oak floors found in the great hall and the dining room. The master suite has a manorial bedroom, a morning room, two dressing rooms, and two baths. The other bedrooms aren't bad, either. There is a guest house across the garden court and a pool and tea house on the uppermost level.
Probably no other house in Memphis is built with such richness of architectural elements. One step inside this house and the elegant assemblage of historical relics will make you feel as if you're embarking on a grand tour of your own. •
Carrier Hall, 642 S. Willett
Approximately 9,000 square feet, including guest house
5 bedrooms, 5 full and 3 half baths $975,000
Realtor: Coleman-Etter, Fontaine, 767-4100
Agent: Debbie Rodda, 229-4334