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Time Warp

Circa-1846 carriage house.



Having finally settled on just the right spot, I turn the soil to plant a new hosta selection with particularly striking leaf variegation. Abruptly, a tiny, old china saucer with squiggles of blue lines reminds me that children played house in my yard at the turn of the last century. My glorious new hosta is forgotten as I, hoping to unearth a tiny cup as well, gently sift the soil, finding instead fat earthworms and the occasional lump of ancient bituminous coal.
My house tilts away from its current track-lighted interior spotlighting canvasses and quilts to a time when coal was hauled in daily to stoke winter fires, and gas lines remaining in the attic supplied the first inhabitants with sputtering light against the night. I’m cast back a hundred years into a time warp, a moment of reverie, which reoccurs every time I spot that little saucer on my sideboard.
I round the corner of Goodlett and Southern, turning back toward the University of Memphis campus. Townhouses from the 1990s and post-WW II homes are the norm here. Between two rows of these townhomes, a smaller, older structure terminates the view. This little house shows the regular rows of bricks turned end-wise to bond the wall together as the courses were laid up. No 20th-century building, this.
The Memphis and LaGrange Railroad, begun in 1845, was the first line out of the city and extended initially 40 miles. Before FedEx, when goods traveled by the iron horse or by horse and buggy, this house was the carriage building to the Philo Goodwyn plantation. Philo Goodwyn was born in Kentucky in 1824. When he was 9 years old the family relocated to New Orleans. He, likewise, relocated his family to Memphis in the early 1840s, inhabiting a home on Adams Avenue and locating a plantation home in 1846 along the new railroad where cotton could easily be shipped into Memphis. It would have been a grand house to have had, since even the carriage house was built of such fine material as brick. Now all is vanished but for this delightful remnant.
In 1989, when the surrounding townhomes were built, this structure was reworked as a residence. The two original downstairs rooms were finished for living and dining. A fireplace opens into the living room, and a spiraling stair winds up out of the dining room. Some of the original brick walls were left exposed inside, and pecky cypress boards finish the interior.
New construction provided room for an eat-in kitchen with a surprisingly long run of counter and cabinets. A half-bath and a laundry closet complete the ground floor. Upstairs, two bedrooms were created along with a full bath. Closets are not plentiful, but the current owner converted the smaller of the two bedrooms into a spacious dressing room which, for a couple, makes a lot of sense.
This surviving structure from an earlier era has been quite successfully adapted as a comfortable living space today. The scale of the rooms and the low-ceilinged garret of the second floor all impart a distinct sense of its age. The original brick and the pecky cypress add a note of appealing rusticity. Modern conveniences like central heat and air, ample off-street parking, and a brick-walled patio don’t hurt either. It’s a delightful time warp and, no matter where you find it, I’d recommend it.

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