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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Victorian Village, Tennessee

Victorian Village (population 2,800) is a 150 -year-old neighborhood on the edge of downtown Memphis, Tennessee. It boasts a number of homes built from 1846 to the 1890s, ranging in style from Neo-classical through Late Gothic Revival. Today, these houses are in use as museums, offices, and private residences.  

Memphis developed along the Mississippi River, which carried people and cargo more efficiently than primitive roads. By the 19th century, the successful offspring of the earlier pioneers moved away from the river to the east, and across the Gayoso Bayou. The earliest homeowners along the ridge included William Harsson, who built a small cottage by 1848, and James Boyd, who built a cottage sometime before 1850. These were simple homes for early tradesmen—Harsson was a lath mill operator and Boyd a liquor dealer.  

Improving fortunes from business successes and marriages resulted in large additions to existing homes and the construction of magnificent two- and three-story mansions designed by nationally known architects, who lavished exquisite detail on the interior spaces. These homes were the castles of the city’s industrial and commercial magnates. 

In its heyday, the neighborhood was the economic, social, and political center of the city. Today, only a handful of homes remain to reflect the opulence and the importance of the Victorian era in Memphis. A few of these homes along Adams Avenue are important examples of Victorian architecture that have national significance. 

Today, in addition to a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood, visitors can explore the Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum, a French Victorian mansion built in 1870, and the Mallory-Neely House, an Italianate-style home begun in 1852. A new documentary film, The View from Adams Avenue: 19th Century Memphis, tells the story of the founding and development of Victorian Village as Memphis’ first suburb. The film by Willy Bearden is part of his Memphis Legacy Project, an endeavor to visually document and preserve aspects of Memphis history. Bearden’s previous films include Overton Park, Elmwood Cemetery and Visualizing the Blues

For more information

Victorian Village Inc. Community Development Organization: www.victorianvillageinc.org

Posted March 18, 2009

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