THE JAMES LEE HOUSE . Memphis, Tennessee .
7.5" x 9.5" x 4"
During Memphis' early period of growth in the mid 19th century, a few wealthy Memphians built grand, Victorian-style homes on Adams Avenue in what was then the outskirts of the city. One such Memphis landmark is the Harsson-Goyer-Lee House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located at 690 Adams Avenue, in the heart of the Victorian Village neighborhood. It was, and is, a proud monument to Victorian architecture in all its four-story glory.
It's hard to believe that this grand home started out in the 1840s as William Harsson's little farmhouse. In 1871, Charles Goyer (Harsson's son-in-law, and founder of Union Planters Bank), expanded the little farmhouse and added the 3 story front section. But riverboat tycoon James Lee purchased the house in 1890, tied all the parts together and added the great front tower simply "to impress".
In 1929, Mrs. Lee deeded the James Lee House to the city as a home for the Memphis Academy of Arts. This school became the Memphis College of Art and moved to a new building in Overton Park over 50 years ago. Since that time, the Lee House has been unoccupied - frozen in time. Currently it is literally crumbling to its foundations, but its grand, sweeping lines and ornate details are hanging on - barely. It has "existed" in its original condition for the past half century. It has never been restored.
Now the Memphis City Council plans to transfer ownership from the city to the Center City Development Corporation. The Lee House will then be put up for sale in the private sector hoping that with tax incentives and easements, the right buyer will come along and restore the James Lee House to its former glory.
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