Before the railroads crossed the Mississippi in Memphis, the South Bluffs area was primarily residential. It is the highest spot around, with unparalleled views, and it catches every breeze that crosses the river. The advent of railroads, hotels, and storage facilities changed the South Bluffs to the warehouse district we know today. Many of the warehouses have now been converted to high-end lofts, and the South Bluffs area is once again residential.
Few of the original houses remain, but just north of the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry Street are three shotguns and two tenement buildings that still provide a touch of the residential mix that existed before 1892.
The three frame cottages and the surrounding brick tenements have been renovated inside and out. They now share a courtyard with a fountain and a rear gated parking area. These three shotguns may be the only freestanding condos in the city offering you light from four sides without requiring you to maintain the exteriors or the grounds. The houses date from the late 1880s or early 1890s.
The main facade of this home faces Mulberry and is embellished with a variety of wall finishes, beginning at porch level with a vertical siding wainscot that changes to beaded, horizontal lap-siding above. The two sides of the porch gable are a sunburst of narrow boards, and the overscale gable vent is a stick-built lattice wedge, not unlike the shape of a masonry arch keystone. The porch balustrade is obviously not original; it would have been either turned railings — the lathe was a popular new woodworking tool then — or flat boards cut with a jigsaw into a decorative shape and then pieced together. Amazingly, a few of the porch columns have their original brackets.
The floor plan retains the original three rooms. The 12-foot ceilings keep these spaces from ever feeling small, and the wealth of architectural detail inside provides visual delight that is often lost and that is such a treat here.
The front two rooms have the original vertical tongue-and-groove wainscoting and tall, four-panel doors with glass transoms. A central coal fireplace opens both to the front living room and middle bedroom; each side has a cast-iron mantel. The floors in these two rooms are the original pine planking with a dark stain.
An original hall was commandeered for storage and turned into a front coat closet, a spacious walk-in closet for the bedroom, and a laundry closet off the kitchen — no wasted space here! The eat-in kitchen and the bath have granite counters and cork floors. A fenced backyard with its own petite patio provides room to fire up the grill.
There are lots of cool downtown living spaces, but in terms of location and architectural detail, this shotgun has got to be at the top of the list. •
Approximately 800 square feet
1 bedroom, 1 bath
Realtor: Garland Co., 527-7779
Agent: Chris Garland, 338-3226